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Story Last modified at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, June 23, 2011

Eklutna has big plans for future ER growth

By Sean Manget
Alaska Journal of Commerce

Eklutna Inc. is selling lots and developing new residential areas at a speedy clip, said CEO Curtis McQueen, with large developments expected to materialize next year.

The company has developed numerous residential areas within Eagle River, and their plans for expansion are ambitious.

Powder Ridge, a development with about 350 homes, may see an expansion next year, McQueen said, with 45 to 49 lots likely to be made available in the seventh phase of the area's development. Powder Ridge lies just north of the Glenn Highway, opposite Eagle River's Fred Meyer store.

Dwellings at Powder Ridge range in value from the low- to mid-$400,000 range to the mid-$600,000 value range, he said.

That expansion will likely be followed by the development of a brand new development right next door.

Called Powder Reserve, the over 400-acre development will feature 100 acres-worth of greenbelt for residents to enjoy the outdoors, McQueen said.

"We branded ourselves to have bigger lots than what you can get in Anchorage, we branded ourselves to have more greenbelts," he said.

Habitats full of roving wildlife are part and parcel of the experience of living in Eagle River, McQueen said, and though Eklutna could opt to create more residential lots on those 100 acres, maintaining a green belt plays into the company's branding as a creator of communities that are close to nature.

"It also brands Eklutna as the type of developer that's not necessarily thinking about every penny, we're thinking about the life experience, the long-term experience," he said.

The area also will have a school site set aside, McQueen said, and a commercial center adjacent to the highway. The company is aiming for what might amount to a miniature version of Tikahtnu Commons, the newest retail and entertainment center in Anchorage, he said.

Powder Reserve will eventually contain, over the course of the next 10 years, 1,560 new homes, McQueen said.

"You'll have everything from the large single-family lots, to the mid-range single-family lots. You'll have high-end condominiums," he said. "You'll also have some affordable housing. We don't know what that's going to look like yet."

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, unable to provide additional housing on-base, has looked to Eklutna to make more housing available for the military, he said. But there's not much affordable housing in the area at present, he said.

Some 30 percent of people in their neighborhoods are military, McQueen said. As additional phases of development are undertaken, "we keep that in the back of our mind," he said.

And regardless of whether the development occurs in Powder Ridge next year, Powder Reserve will still materialize, he said.

The company currently holds more than 90,000 acres of land in the Municipality of Anchorage, McQueen said, and it is municipality's largest private landowner, he said.

And with 67,000 acres soon to be conveyed by the Bureau of Land Management, in addition to the company's existing 15,000 to 20,000 acres in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Eklutna may soon become one of Mat-Su's largest private landowners as well, if not the largest, he said.

The company will still be owed 20,000 acres after all of that, he said. Additionally, Eklutna owns 17,000 acres of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson land, McQueen said.

McQueen sees Eklutna's continued development of residential areas as a refutation of the common assertion that room for growth in the region is limited.

"Once we get done with Powder Reserve, we've got enough land... to probably bring on between (5,000 and 7,000) new single-family homes over the next 20 or 30 years," he said.

Sean Manget can be reached at sean.manget@alaskajournal.com.



This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, June 23, 2011.