Reflecting Sandpoint's beautiful place in the world since 1990.

Carving new trails

From the Winter 2023 Issue

Schweitzer building housing for employees


Names with a history

Finding an affordable place to live around Sandpoint has become a challenge, particularly for employees who are core to service industries. Those who work seasonal jobs—tourism-fueled summer businesses and Schweitzer in the winter—are people these businesses can’t operate without, but they can have a hard time finding quarters that don’t eat everything they earn.

Schweitzer management, responsible for a large number of area employees, recognized this dichotomy and in early winter of 2021 began taking steps to alleviate the problem. The first was a baby step; the purchase of a former extended care facility

in Sandpoint, Hemlock House. It was turned into a bare-bones, dorm-style facility, with room for 16 in eight shared bedrooms. The residents share a laundry room, four shower rooms, a kitchen, a large living room and a rec room. They are also required to sign an agreement about their behavior at Hemlock House. Keeping peace with the neighbors in a communal living situation is very important.

The Next Step is Giant

Room for 16 might seem like a drop in the bucket for a resort that employs 700-plus full- and part-time people in winter, but it’s a start. To continue, Schweitzer upped the ante considerably. In partnership with Eastmark Capital Group, the resort broke ground in July on a $22 million, 84-unit apartment complex in Ponderay. Located behind Walmart, the complex will be accessed appropriately enough from Schweitzer Plaza Drive, as well as Triangle Drive. It might be noted that residents will be able to see Schweitzer from there.

The 84 units comprise three buildings of three stories each facing on a relatively private shared green space sheltered from traffic noise by the buildings. As of this writing, Yost Gallagher Construction of Spokane has already got the main frame of the three buildings up and is working toward putting up the roof trusses.

The apartments vary in size from one to three bedrooms, and so can realistically provide housing for quite a few more than 84 persons.

“The design is very flexible, said Scot Auld, Schweitzer HR director. “Every bedroom has a bathroom associated with it, so it could house a couple of hundred employees.”

Bonuses include its proximity to Walmart, Yokes, and other Bonner Mall stores, as well being close to SPOT bus routes that run to the Red Barn in the winter and Sandpoint year-round. The community bike paths connecting Kootenai, Ponderay, Sandpoint and Dover also run by the complex.

Coming Summer 2023

The new complex is slated to open for occupation in the summer of 2023. Beyond that are plans for more housing units, with amenities such as picnic and outdoor play areas, walking paths, work-out facilities, and, possibly as important as everything else, a daycare center for employees with young kids.

“We are currently checking with staff to see what their interest level is,” Auld said. “Rents will vary with size of the unit, but we are hoping to offer it significantly lower than market—in the ballpark of 30 to 40 percent. The apartments won’t be a benefit to our staff if they rent at market rate.”

In responding to employee housing needs, Schweitzer is once again carving new trails.

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