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Kalispell Council assesses car park plan ahead of votes


Kalispell City Council discussed details of plans for a downtown car park during its Monday business session in preparation for several scheduled votes on the project at its next meeting on October 3.

The city is seeking to enter into agreements with Montana Development Partners to convert a parking lot at First Street West and First Avenue West into a parking lot with commercial space. The project also includes multi-family housing.

The project grew out of a city request for proposals to redevelop the parking lot, and another city-owned lot on Main Street is now planned for the Charles Hotel to be built by the same developer.

Councilors asked several questions about the number of parking spaces and the management of the parking garage which should be private. Some also took the time to express their general thoughts on the project.

Councilor Ryan Hunter again raised concerns about parking, but said the more recent addition of a housing element is a ‘better proposition’.

“I object to the use of municipal tax funding to pay for the parking structure,” he said. “We give free municipal land to developers. The developer does not need this incentive to commit to this project.

Councilor Sid Daoud spoke in favor of the project.

“I’m 100 per cent in favor of meeting our parking needs, but it’s also great to meet some of our housing needs,” he said.

Mayor Mark Johnson said the city could sell the parking lots and get about $800,000 for the sale of the two, but would then have no control over how those lots might be developed. As proposed, the parking garage and hotel project are expected to generate $800,000 per year in tax dollars.

“We take two lands which [as parking lots] costs taxpayers money and actually something that generates a significant amount of revenue,” he said.

The company plans to build a garage with approximately 240 parking spaces as well as 6,200 square feet of retail and office space at First and First. The public car park will be entirely financed and built by the promoter.

In exchange, the city offers to reimburse the developer for the construction of the public parking lot from the tax increase financing funds generated by the Charles Hotel and the development of the parking lot.

The parking component of the project is estimated at $9.2 million. The parking garage will be owned and operated by the developer, but leased to the city.

REPRESENTING Montana Development Partners, Bill Goldberg said the parking lot alone is a good project for downtown Kalispell. The addition of the 78 multi-family units has made it even better by giving people the opportunity to live and work downtown. It also offers the possibility of greater housing density downtown, he said.

“I think you’re going to see more people looking at the downtown development opportunity as a result,” Goldberg said. “It’s the kind of activity that begets other activity. Seeing the continued development, they’ll say it’s time to do something.

City Manager Doug Russell described some of the project’s benefits to the city. Since the parking garage will be privately developed and owned, the development risk as well as the burden of maintaining and operating the garage will be placed on the developer. The parking garage also adds 130 parking spaces to downtown, and the hotel and parking garage will generate new taxes for the city, he noted.

“This is a project that respects the city’s downtown plans and stems from many efforts to revitalize the downtown core,” he said. “It comes from years of inner city groups saying we have to do something. This is an urban renewal project for the city center.

The Charles parking lot and hotel are estimated to represent a $75 million investment in Kalispell, the city notes.

DURING PUBLIC COMMENTS, a few people expressed concerns about the project.

Cassidy Kipp of the Community Action Partnership of Northwestern Montana, which operates out of a building on Main Street, expressed concern about the area’s sufficient parking space. She pointed out that the nonprofit has 48 employees and also needs parking for the clients it serves.

John Barr, owner of the Kalispell Grand Hotel, told the Council he was happy to see a new hotel coming to the city centre, saying it would benefit the whole business community. But he wondered if there would be enough parking spaces in the garage after including the accommodations added to the project and some of the parking spaces reserved for use by the Charles Hotel.

“There must be parking for all downtown business customers,” he said. “No one will invest downtown if there is no parking. It is very important for the way the city center will develop over the next decades.

FINALLY, COUNCIL will have to approve the public parking lot development agreement, the public parking structure rental agreement and the purchase and sale agreements for the transfer of the lots from the city to the developer.

The project also includes an application for a conditional use permit, which will need to be approved by council, for the parking structure and for an additional height of more than 60 feet for the building. The city has no height limit, but any building over 60 feet requires a CUP.

It is proposed that the parking garage be eight stories or approximately 88 feet high.

Managing Editor Heidi Desch can be reached at 758-4421 or [email protected]

Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins