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'Cedar Palace' gets new life as medical complex

by CHRIS PETERSON
Hungry Horse News | November 1, 2020 12:00 AM

In 1981, Columbia Falls builder Leonard Knutson built the new headquarters for Plum Creek’s operations on 12th Avenue West in Columbia Falls.

Known as the “Cedar Palace” the unique building featured 65 offices surrounding an open courtyard.

It was designed so that every office, save for two, got a window.

But in 2016, Plum Creek merged with Weyerhaeuser and the offices were no longer needed. About 100 people lost their jobs and the Cedar Palace went empty.

Today, the facility will soon be bustling again. Last November Glacier Medical Associates of Whitefish and Ortho Rehab partnered to buy and renovate the building into a new independent medical facility called the Cedar Palace Medical Complex.

It will open Monday.

“We were interested in being closer to the patients that we serve,” said Dr. Jeremy Jennings during a tour on Thursday. Glacier Medical, with nearly 200 employees, already has a large facility in Whitefish.

Martel Construction completely gutted the 35,000-square-foot building and renovated it to serve the host of medical practitioners, counselors and therapists that will offer services there.

The project, including the land purchase, represents a $6 million investment in Columbia Falls and surrounding communities.

Sharing space with Glacier Medical and OrthoRehab are several other providers, including Sykes Pharmacy, Healthy Beginnings Pediatric Therapy, Whitefish Chiropractor, Sweetgrass Psychological Services, Glacier Eye Center, Kalispell Regional Medical Center Specialists.

The facility is independent from Kalispell Regional Healthcare, but KRMC will offer specialist services in the facility on the bottom floor.

The idea behind the complex is to give complete medical care to residents, so they don’t have to travel to Whitefish or Kalispell, noted Dr. Karen Vesely. Vesely and Jennings will both practice medicine in the facility.

Vesely noted that with a host of services under one roof, a person with say, a knee injury, could have it examined and treated and then speak with a physical therapist all in one day.

“It will be great to have that partnership,” Vesely said.

Columbia Falls is well represented in the facility. Ortho Rehab is owned by partners Tyler Ladenburg, Patrick Gulick and Ben Kingan.

Ladenburg grew up here and was a standout athlete in Columbia Falls. He graduated in 2000 and has been a physical therapist for 11 years now.

Ladenburg will run the Cedar Palace facility with therapists Dakota Amy, Tim Tracy and PTA Jen Sandstrom.

Sykes Pharmacy will be run by Dani (Gilley) Perry and Katie Grilley, who is the wife of Jesse Grilley, Ladenberg noted. Grilley graduated from Columbia Falls, as did Jesse Grilley.

Molly Jones, a speech therapist with Healthy Beginnings, also grew up in Columbia Falls.

Ladenburg’s facility, which looks to the east at Teakettle and Columbia Mountains from the second floor, is where Charlie Grenier’s office once was.

Grenier was the executive vice president of Plum Creek for 14 years and was well-liked.

“Charlie remembered everyone’s name at the mill,” Ladenburg recalled.

So how does it feel to now have his office space?

Ladenburg smiled.

“I hope that it’s a really great service for our town.” He said. “I’m really happy Columbia Falls will have this kind of medical access.”

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The new Cedar Palace Medical Complex opens Monday in Columbia Falls. (Chris Peterson/Hungry Horse News)