Seasons at Sandpoint Is Redefining Lakefront Living

Posted by R.J. COHN — January 18, 2007

SANDPOINT — Jae Heinberg’s love affair with Sandpoint’s lakefront has come full circle. So has his sweeping, five-star project, The Seasons at Sandpoint. No matter what developers you talk to, they’ll tell you that the president of the Bella Vista Group building the 162-unit luxury development on the shores of Sand Creek has not only set the bar for developing world-class lakefront projects in the region; his development on 1,800 feet of waterfront just north of City Beach is redefining Sandpoint’s identity as an emerging resort community. Heinberg’s vision and BVG’s financial backing have been the driving force in developing the vacant land — formerly owned by the Cox family — into the first significant housing project in downtown Sandpoint that’s expected to pack a substantial financial impact to the area from tourism to taxes. Complete with an 82-slip marina, an expansive, 11,000-square foot, 3-level clubhouse featuring a state-of-the-art fitness center and spa facilities overlooking a pool deck with mountain and lake views, BVG has gone to elaborate lengths to create a premium luxury development. It has won over buyers from every corner of the country, many of whom previously had no conception where Sandpoint, Idaho was even located. But Heinberg’s project has them coming and buying into Seasons at a steady clip. Priced from $550,000, 27 units of the 30 in Seasons’ first phase are already sold, while 69 percent in its second phases have been purchased. “We very, very pleased,” says Heinberg, who began Seasons in 2004 and expects all five phases to be completed in 2009. “Everything is being done extremely well at every corner, from construction to our national selling launch. There’s nothing like this here; other resort projects are a distance out of town. “Where else around here can you have a home on a premium spot on the lake and still be in the heart of downtown?” Its appeal has been almost magnetic. Thirty percent of Seasons’ third phase — which won’t be completed until the summer of 2008 — has been sold, and two of the eight high-end townhouses in the $2 million range planned for construction in 15 months have also been bought. And 15 percent of its smaller one-bedroom condominiums priced between $400,000-$500,000 in the fifth phase are already sold. Heinberg — who has been vacationing on Lake Pend Oreille for the 17 years and fell in love with the area — says timing and luck contributed immensely to Seasons’ success. “Twelve years ago this couldn’t have happened,” he says. “When the idea for Seasons germinated and we went forward to purchase the property from the Cox family in 2002, Sandpoint was changing at the same time. “The community was in transition, the timber industry was down-sizing, and I think Sandpoint was ready for a different lifestyle and experience. When Seasons came in, it was perfect timing.” Part of that timing was the national media exposure that spotlighted Sandpoint with the suddenness of a blitzkrieg. From Sunset Magazine to USA Today, no one could stop touting Sandpoint as the best thing since sliced bread. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to be in the best little town in the West. “It helped a lot in selling Seasons,” admits Heinberg. “When we began our national selling campaign, we had to sell the community as well. But Sandpoint via the national press was doing a lot of that on its own.” Heinberg says he’s a strong believer in the rising tide theory, which Sandpoint was starting to ride. “Sandpoint was just rising on that tide when Seasons began,” he says. “We wanted to put our best foot forward in this community and create a win/win situation for both the city and Seasons. From the very start, we have felt that what’s good for Sandpoint is good for Seasons and vice versa.” BVG has more than shown it wants to be a significant player, a good corporate neighbor to the city like Litehouse and Coldwater Creek. It has contributed more than $40,000 to Panhandle Alliance for Education and paid nearly $1.5 million — “over and above that was needed,” says Heinberg — upfront or Seasons’ utilities and infrastructure. A developmental agreement inked between the city and Seasons has nearly $400,000 in improvements earmarked for a for a new fire EMS boat, $100,000 for jetty improvements, construction of an access road, a new sewer line at Bridge Street as well as a new city bike path. Seasons is also expected to generate about $3.1 million into the city in three years, which includes close to $1 million in building permit fees, $660,000 in property taxes and $442,000 in resort tax per year — 2.5 times the amount the city currently receives. “We’re being positive and productive to the city,” says Heinberg. Heinberg — who originally thought he’d build a few homes on the lake, sell some and a keep one before coming up with the idea for Seasons — says he’s exploring possible options for other lakefront and in-town projects. He’ll make a decision on what direction he wants to pursue in a year. “If we say we’re going to do something, we will do it and we will do it right ,” he says. “That’s always been the way we do things.”

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