The Mountain View Meadows team expects more growth

It takes Mark Runkle and his wife Rebecca Ryland nearly an hour to show a visitor all that’s going on at Mountain View Meadows, a sprawling residential community overlooking the Helena Valley.

At the end of the ride you get the feeling that they really didn’t scratch the surface.

Runkle recently sent a newsletter to Mountain View Meadows residents stating that they now have 402 housing units on the property on the east side of Helena, adding that if the current rate of housing continues, they will have more within the next five to six will add another 400 years and eventually complete with about 1,200 homes.

“It’s an exciting time in Mountain View Meadows,” Runkle, the owner/developer, says in the newsletter, adding that it’s the only master-planned community in Helena.

“The masterplan concept is what makes us different,” he said.

People also read… defines master-planned communities as “large-scale, mixed-use residential developments with robust, curated amenities that aim to give residents the experience of living in a self-contained city.” It is a community with covenants, homeowners association and design standards.

Runkle and Ryland, director of design at Mountain View Meadows, pointed out miles of trails, sidewalks, bike paths, streetlights, parks, pocket parks, landscaped alleys, and a mix of housing types and styles. Construction crews seem to be building houses on many streets with a steady stream of cement trucks crawling up and down the hill.

Mark Runkle and his wife Rebecca Ryland recently pose for a photo in the Mountain View Meadows neighborhood.

THOM BRIDGE, independent record

There are single family homes, duplexes and condominiums on streets with names like Alice Street, Jeannette Rankin Drive and Elouise Cobell Street.

Runkle and Ryland proudly point to Mountain View Park, saying it has contributed to more growth for the development.

They note that it has basketball and tennis courts, a dog park and playground, a volleyball court, a pavilion, a regulation horseshoe pit, an open field for soccer, a Frisbee golf course, and an electric vehicle charging station.

Runkle jokes that after 16 years, Mountain View Meadows has become an overnight success.

He grew up on a farm in southwestern Ohio and earned a veterinary degree from Ohio State University. He said he believed that if he studied medicine he would understand the meaning of life and that he felt it would serve him throughout his life.

A resident walks his dog in a public park

A resident walks his dog in a public park in the downtown Mountain View Meadows neighborhood.

THOM BRIDGE, independent record

Runkle, who wore a leather cowboy hat over a long head of white hair and a jacket on the day of the tour, said he owned a horse-riding company that once had 130 horses to pay his way through vet school.

The entrepreneur said he then owned a microcomputer company, “Midwest Micro,” that handled national distribution and mail order with 700 employees. He sold that in 2000. He said most of his business education was on-the-job training.

“The computer business was particularly rich in interaction with international corporate executives and entrepreneurs,” said Runkle. “It was endlessly challenging and competitive. I think it prepared me pretty well for everything, even as a developer.”

“Essentially, we just learn the details and test our ideas as we go,” he said.

According to the biography on the Mountain View Meadows website, Runkle and his first wife, Joyce, built their new log cabin, the Elkhorn View Lodge, outside of Montana City in 2001. When Joyce died shortly after their home was completed, he turned his attention to a new venture: developing. Runkle developed the “Moonlight Ridge” community just off Jackson Creek Road in Jefferson County.

Mountain View Meadows started in 2003, he said, adding that he was more concerned with financing than management. He said 1,000 acres had been acquired and major roads were added, as well as water, sewage and other infrastructure.

“As infrastructure costs rose and the housing boom collapsed, I realized I would have one more business to learn and one more project to work through,” he stated.

He said the most important attitude for success is perseverance – that, and building a good team.

Homes under construction in the Mountain View Meadows

Homes under construction in the Mountain View Meadows neighborhood east of Helena.

THOM BRIDGE, independent record

Runkle said that in 2010, the Foley Group of Billings was brought in as a land planner to polish the master plan. He also mentioned the engineers at Stahly Engineering. Runkle said he and Ryland are working closely with their construction partners, Sierra Custom Homes and Weatherall Builders, and a third builder is coming on board.

“I’m on the team that prioritizes and coordinates activities and Rebecca manages the look and feel of the neighborhoods,” he said.

Runkle said he and Rebecca’s background and training prior to Mountain View was essentially zero.

But he said Rebecca’s background and training in theater and art proved to be excellent training for a design director.

“Rebecca is a genius and can basically do anything,” he said.

She started the Last Chance New Play Fest, an annual production of new theater work by Montana artists, held at the Helena Avenue Theater. Her biography on the Mountain View Meadows website says she was instrumental in developing house plans, streetscapes, color schemes, park layouts, conceptual neighborhood plans and landscape designs and serves as the head of the Architectural & Design Review Committee.

Mountain View Meadows consists of several neighborhoods with unique architectural styles: Aspen Park has lots of one-third of an acre or more and homes ranging from $600,000 to $800,000; and Craftsman Village and Craftsman Village North have Craftsman-style homes and porches and lot sizes that range from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet and homes priced from $325,000 to $525,000. There’s also The Uplands, with lot sizes ranging from 6,000 to 10,000 square feet and homes ranging from $400,000-$600,000. The lots will accommodate a garage in the third bay or a concrete parking lot for a recreational vehicle or boat.

There are also condominium neighborhoods with apartments ranging from 1,250 to over 2,000 square feet. They will sell in the low $300,000.

And then there’s The Peaks, a neighborhood scheduled to open in 2023. It will offer a variety of lot sizes with some of the best views in the development, the developers say. Some of the homes are fully electrically powered with solar panels. They will still be on the grid, but will have solar panels, Ryland said.

“It’s the wave of the future,” she said. “We’re trying to set an example.”

She said they put electric vehicle charging stations in the development just to set a standard.

Homes under construction in the Mountain View Meadows

Homes under construction in the Mountain View Meadows neighborhood on the east side of Helena.

THOM BRIDGE, independent record

The Helena City Commission recently approved the annexation of 9,123 acres in the city for Aspen Park Phase 2, which is located on the northwest corner of Alpine View Drive and Runkle Parkway. The owner of the property must make all infrastructure improvements required by the city. There are plans to build 16 duplexes, which will occupy approximately 5 hectares of the site, with the remainder forming part of a right-of-way and green space.

While the homes are located in the city of Helena, the children who live there attend schools in East Helena, and the project has easy access to Highway 12, Highway 282, and Interstate 15.

“He’s really thought about making it a real community,” said Michael O’Neil, executive director of the Helena Housing Authority, a nonprofit founded in 1938 to provide affordable housing and related services to eligible emerging low-income families. elderly and disabled people.

“He’s an excellent example of a developer-community-builder,” O’Neil said, adding that the Runkle-Ryland projects meet all standards without cutting corners and finishing infrastructure before housing goes in.

Helena’s interim city manager Tim Burton said he worked with Runkle on the Mountain View Meadows project when Burton served as Helena’s city manager from 2000-2009.

“It’s very clear when you go there that they did an extremely good job,” said Burton.

He said planned community development that meets city standards is the most sustainable pattern in Montana.

“We can certainly handle the growth that Mr. Runkle expects,” he said.

O’Neil said Mountain View Meadows is conscious of involving everyone in the communities as much as possible, such as partnerships with Habitat for Humanity.

He said the property had been identified as a likely housing site prior to development, adding that it was centrally located.

“It’s nice when things fit into the plan,” O’Neil said.

He said Runkle deals with affordability issues, attends monthly housing task force meetings and has particular insight into rural USDA funding.

“It is useful that there will be a new housing stock, because we really need it. Variety benefits everyone,” said O’Neil.

Plans for the property include a luxury condo complex on 11.5 acres at the base of the hill, and 20 acres for a senior housing community being planned by St. Peter’s Health and Immanuel Living behind the current Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana- building. There is already a business use development at the foot of the hill near an area being prepared for retail.

St. Peter’s Health said it was grateful for the partnership with Runkle and Ryland and believes Mountain View Meadows is the ideal location for its new facility.

They said they are continuing to develop a Life Plan community on the southeast side of the city and are holding public meetings to engage future residents in the planning process for an integrated residential community that can keep them, or perhaps even welcome them, in their place of residence. back to Helena.

They said the interest exceeded their current development plans.

However, they said they, like others, are facing inflation and supply chain challenges.

“At this point, we don’t have a concrete date to break ground, but we look forward to sharing that date and more on the project soon,” they said.

Runkle and Ryland say they get a sense of accomplishment from what they do.

“There’s the satisfaction of building a community and seeing the dream become a reality,” Runkle said.

Ryland said, “I think we both get incredibly excited when we see people pushing strollers down the sidewalk” and seeing people on the trails.

“It makes us feel like we’re contributing something to the community that can’t be seen anywhere else.”

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Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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