A group of property owners are in the process of planning a segment along Johnson Lane, to be part of a future town center for Lockwood.
They plan to donate their adjacent properties to a community land trust that will be administered by a non-profit organization for the benefit of the Lockwood community. The idea is to facilitate future growth in an orderly and planned way, while keeping land costs down, in order to make living and doing business in Lockwood affordable, say two of those landowners, Conrad and Teresa Stroebe.
The Stroebes own a 40-acre parcel that will be part of the proposed 130-acre development. There are two other property owners involved in the project — the Donald B. and Hannah Stewart Family and another individual who would like to remain unnamed.
To be called Lockwood Town Center, the 130 acres lay on the east side of Johnson Lane, bisected by Ford Road. The property lies within the area that was designated in the 2016 Lockwood Growth Policy as the preferred location for a downtown – although Conrad Stroebe emphasizes that at least part of it should be called “Uptown,” because it sits, most distinctly, on a hill that overlooks the rest of the community.
Conrad Stroebe said that they were surprised upon seeing the completed growth policy to discover that their home site was within the designated area for the town center. The idea for Lockwood Town Center grew from that moment on.
Land trusts are increasingly being used across the country to meet a variety of community needs. Most commonly they are used in meeting residential needs, but they are equally adaptable to serving commercial and retail developments. What the Lockwood property owners are planning is essentially a “planned unit development”, which is a holistic concept within which a general layout is designed, identifying structure types, streets, utilities, landscaping and other features.
Stroebe pointed to the development of Shiloh Commons at Central Avenue and Shiloh Road, in west Billings, as an example of a planned unit development, except it isn’t as large, and it is a for-profit project.
As a non-profit organization, Lockwood Town Center would probably lease property, long term – such as 99 year leases – with all revenues generated reinvested in the maintenance and continued infrastructure development of the site. Administration of the development would be flexible enough to meet market demands and to be able to adapt as changes occur in the future.
“It is not to make money but to save money for the community,” said Conrad Stroebe, who not long ago moved his offices for his long-established accounting firm into his home on Johnson Lane. There is plenty enough demand in Lockwood – a community of about 7500 – to sustain his business and many other kinds of businesses, said Stroebe. And, he fully expects to see a migration of such businesses into the community.
Lockwood Town Center is being planned as a walkable community, providing the kinds of businesses and services needed by any community in an enjoyable, attractive and relaxed setting that will encourage people to want to live there, described Teresa Stroebe. She explained that part of their planning has been researching across the country to identify what makes communities desirable places in which to live. They hope to be able to model Lockwood Town Center after those findings.
Collaborative Design is conducting a feasibility study which is expected to be completed in the spring. The study is meant “to confirm our ideas” said Stroebe. When completed the property owners will go through the process of changing the zoning of the area to accommodate future uses.
The initial plans call for retail development along Johnson Lane, and a mix of retail and other kinds of business sites along Ford Road and to the south of Ford Road. It will also include multi-family units to the north end of Lockwood Town Center and in the interior of the site, which would mingle with “mixed-use” and gradually be phased into residential streets, as it extends further east. Parks and water features are included in the landscaping, which also include extensive walkways.
With a new Lockwood High School and with the completion of the Billings Bypass which will connect Johnson Lane to the Heights, the Stroebes see demand for residential and retail space coming soon. There is, in fact, almost no residential rentals available in Lockwood right now, said Stroebe.
Teresa Stroebe sees many possibilities, most of which will happen “long after we are gone,” she concedes, but she is still excited about the potential for Lockwood. “Lockwood needs its own branding,” she said, suggesting that following Billings’ example of the Strawberry Festival, Lockwood could have a Cider Festival featuring a century-old apple orchard that is near Lockwood Town Center.
The Stroebe name is a familiar name in Lockwood, for their many years of dedicated effort to the Lockwood education community that both Conrad and Teresa have given.
The Stewart family name is also well-known in the area, as the family that used to farm at the corner of 24th Street and Central Avenue, and for their donation of land that today comprises Stewart Park, behind Rimrock Mall.