Housing development revived after market crash, as the town pushes forward with its own transformation

Story by Myers Reece | Photography by Greg Lindstrom

Aa longtime pilot for the U.S. Air Force, Trevor Schaefer has peered down at the world from the cockpit of a F-15 fighter jet. But he was in a boat looking up when he saw the linchpin to his second career.

Schaefer was enjoying a day on Flathead Lake when he spotted a chunk of mountainside that seemed ideal for a residential community just south of Lakeside. A Flathead transplant, he had been dabbling in property sales as a side business. He was ready to take on a big project.

Schaefer brought on two Air Force buddies, Lt. Cl. Bob Martin and Lt. Cl. Lawrence Otto, as partners and purchased an initial 590 acres of Plum Creek land when the housing boom was still in full force. The subdivision, known as Eagle’s Crest at the time, got underway just as the market crashed.

“We mothballed the project,” he said.

After adding three more partners – Tony Mitchell and brothers Pat and Terry Lieser – Schaefer and his team waited for the market to recover. Once they were ready to begin developing again, they proceeded with a renewed emphasis on amenities, including the renovation of a 139-boat slip marina near The Docks in Lakeside.

“We feel that is the differentiating factor for us,” he said of the marina. “There’s very little access if you don’t have property on the lake.”

Trevor Schafer of the Lakeside Club

Trevor Schafer of the Lakeside Club

Residents of the revived development, now called the Lakeside Club, won’t have property directly on the lake, but they’ll have excellent views of the water and just a several-minute drive to the marina. They’ll have quite a few other perks, too.

The Lakeside Club is situated on a timbered mountainside on the western side of U.S. Highway 93, barely south of Lakeside. Following additional land purchases, the partners own over 2,000 acres total. The first building phase, in progress, encompasses 590 acres.

Of the first phase’s 95 lots, only seven remained available as of late April. To give each homeowner breathing room, Schaefer says the lots are plotted at no more than one unit per 2.4 acres.

Housing options range from 2,000-square-foot cabins to custom homes over 10,000 square feet. Nine homes have been completed and more are under construction. Showings are up this year, with interest coming from Pacific Coast urban centers such as Seattle and Los Angeles, as well as “across the Sun Belt: from Las Vegas all the way to Florida.”

Plans leave room for a golf course if residents request it, Schaefer says. For now, the partners are focusing on other amenities, including a 40-acre commons area and community center that has already hosted concerts. The area is landscaped with water features and pavilions.

In a nod to the original partners’ Air Force roots, the subdivision also has a 3,400-foot runway and hangars to shelter small planes. The owners can use it, as can residents, so long as they pass what Schaefer calls a rigorous pilot aptitude test.

A small cluster of cabins under construction

A small cluster of cabins under construction

“By no means is this a transportation hub,” he said. “It’s just a launching pad and it won’t be used often. One flight a week would be high.”

As a fighter pilot, Schaefer spent combat tours in places as varied as Bosnia and Iraq, and he’s lived all over the globe. He was living in Germany when he visited the Flathead for the first time in the 1990s. He fell in love with the area and bought a piece of property.

“I just thought this place was amazing,” he said.

Over the years, he’s watched Lakeside evolve, and he believes the foundation has been laid for the town’s further transformation into a thriving lakeshore hub. He points to Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, Volunteer Park, Lakeside Town Center, and Tamarack Brewing Company, among others, as evidence.

“There are a lot of great things happening in Lakeside that make it attractive to both locals and the one million cars that pass through here every year,” he said