Silver Bay envisions new housing

Silver Bay has stoked a head of steam to propel its recent development momentum. The North Shore city is moving beyond its history as a mining town to become a burgeoning new vacation destination.

Silver Bay’s Economic Development Authority approved plans in March for several projects, including updated signage, upscale housing, multi-unit housing and an extensive resort.

Movers and shakers including the city’s economic development director, David Drown, who brings his career in public financing to good effect, are working behind the scenes to support multiple projects.

Signs of change

As pedestrian as it might seem, signage is a science and an art. It has a big impact on the experience of a place. In Silver Bay, Drown said, the time is right not only to give a facelift to basics like street signs, but to add an element of thoughtful design.

Good signs tell people where they are, help them get where they are going and create a positive impression. Silver Bay is a jumping off point for a host of trails, all of which use different sign styles which could be coordinated.

The turnoff from Highway 61 offers an opportunity to create a gateway feel, a welcoming entrance. The roadway sweeps up to the surrounding cliffs and forest of the Sawtooth Mountain ridge, a place that’s finding its new identity.

Penn Avenue Apartments

Addressing the intense demand for worker housing, the city is rolling out a novel approach in collaboration with Lake County’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA). Working with F.I. Salter Co. of Duluth, plans are advancing to construct four 4-plexes on HRA land in cooperation with the city.

Keeping construction efficient and visually non-intrusive are key to making this project work, according to Drown. Residents want to retain the view above these new roofs, and with the HRA’s support, the rents will be kept low.

Calling the plans “simple and basic,” he says the design offers basic housing with reasonable rents, and plans are to build them this construction season.

Golf course development

Adjacent to Silver Bay’s golf course, the development of a 43-lot city property is slowly moving ahead. Plans call for having the plots platted this spring, with construction during the 2023 building season.

The golf course development is notable for its natural beauty with 150-foot towering white pines and huge cedars overhanging the East Branch Beaver River. Drown says the goal is to have reasonably intensive development with a conveyance to prohibit cutting the trees.

While details related to utilities and zoning have yet to be hammered out, the city seems determined to do what it takes to create a place to build houses next to their golf course that may suit golfers, newcomers or current homeowners looking to upgrade.

Boathouse Bay development

The rarity of a buildable spot with a full-on view of Lake Superior creates an obligation that Drown says, “deserves thoughtful and sensitive development.” That kind of thinking pushed him toward cluster development, also called Planned Unit Development. It’s “a way to do more creative land development that preserves the environment and can be more efficient,” he notes.  “It’s about throwing away the standard idea that every building is separate with its own parking area.”

Formerly divided into 15 commercial lots and now redubbed Bayview Park, Drown says this new approach will leave significant wetlands largely untouched and preserve the natural areas by grouping construction with shared walls and utilities for efficiency.

Closest to Highway 61 will be a row of storage units, designed to avoid visual disruption and create a buffer to the road. One-bedroom rental bungalows will overlook the lake from the bluff, and an event center that can accommodate 100 to 200 will be available to rent for community events and private parties. Twenty-four lakeshore villas and lots of eight single-family vacation homes are also in the plans.

Identifying himself as “a 6-1-2er” (one who hails from the Twin Cities), John Anderson is the developer behind the proposed $30 million development. Unabashedly loving the North Shore, he has long sought to add value there.

Purchasing land with a friend in 2007, the unfolding economic blight pushed development to the back burner. Becoming the sole owner in 2014, Anderson kept trying to get some momentum, “but a piece was missing from the puzzle.” 

That missing piece was Drown, who had the perceptive ability to support a big dream, and the will to bring his experience to bear for a town he now calls his home. 

Eager to press forward, Anderson says Drown talked him into taking extra time to collaborate on an overall plan for the area, saying, “I was hesitant, but out of respect for David, who told me to ‘Think bigger,’ we spent a couple of months thinking about the property next to mine.”

That time for thought gave birth to big ideas, with a vision of a Fisherman’s Village and pleasant paths connecting the housing, proposed village, existing campgrounds and beach. The Fisherman’s Village idea is in its very early stages, but hopes include creating a cluster of novel shopping and dining options in a style inspired by Grand Marais’ North House Folk School complex.

Anderson calls the overall look of the development “modern rustic” with a blend of reclaimed barnwood, glass and white-painted woodwork for the exterior design. Rustic though the look may be, the development will have fiber-optic broadband, city sewer, water and gas.

Integration of city infrastructure services is a key component of high-density development, with grants totaling $700,000 from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board allocated toward site work for Boathouse Bay. Another $214,202 will help extend public sewer and water to the bay and potentially a future resort project.

“I want it to look just like it does now, nothing in the way of the visual of the lake, where you can walk out with a Thermos of coffee and listen to the seagulls and see the sunrise. Breathtaking!” Anderson said.

Eventually, he envisions creating the Boathouse Bay Management company. It will manage a rental pool of single-owner villa units that are not currently occupied, and rental bungalow units.

An optimistic timetable, according to Anderson, sees six villas near the lakeshore and six bungalows ready for occupancy by the end of 2022.