Tuesday, September 29, 2020
74.0°F

Kalispell eyes redevelopment of downtown parking lot

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | September 16, 2020 12:00 AM

The Kalispell City Council held a virtual work session via Zoom videoconference on Monday evening to discuss two ideas related to funding and development within the city.

The first discussion item considered the possibility of seeking requests to redevelop the parking lot near Valley Bank at the northwest corner of Main Street and Third Street West.

Redeveloping the lot would comply with the Kalispell Downtown Plan’s requirement “to re-develop City-owned surface parking lots into more beneficial uses to eliminate blight and increase tax base,” either by selling lots to developers, granting lots to developers or swapping spaces with existing property owners.

During the work session, the council discussed the process for selecting a possible developer, the price at which the lot could potentially be sold and proposed new uses for the lot, such as commercial space or mixed-use commercial and residential space.

However, there were concerns from city councilors and one public commenter about eliminating parking space downtown, particularly handicapped parking spots.

Councilor Tim Kluesner also brought up environmental concerns with the site from a fire that took place there years ago.

After the discussion, the council reached a consensus to move forward with a draft request for proposals and see what kinds of proposals the council receives by Jan. 1, 2021.

The council also discussed the possibility of reallocating $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city currently uses these federal funds to distribute small loans to Kalispell businesses. However, City Manager Doug Russell explained the city typically awards very few business loans—only four loans to two companies in the past 24 months—so these funds could potentially be better spent elsewhere.

Russell said there is an “almost infinite number of ideas for what this could be used for.” Some possible ideas proposed during the meeting include implementation of a potential pedestrian plan, use on additional trail components of the downtown Core area trail, and affordable housing initiatives.

HUD stipulates the funds must be used to provide a “benefit to low and moderate income persons; aid in prevention or elimination of slums or blight; or meet a need having a particular urgency.”

The council’s consensus was to wait until the city receives bid amounts later this year for the development of the downtown trail, and then, based on those estimates, decide whether to proceed with reallocating these grant funds.

At the end of the meeting, Councilor Sid Daoud asked members of the public to express any interest in holding an outdoor meeting for Ward 4 to discuss Gov. Steve Bullock’s statewide mask mandate.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at (406)-758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.