Wednesday, May 22, 2024
48.0°F

ImagineIF trustees ask Kalispell City Council for Depot Park building

by ADRIAN KNOWLER
Daily Inter Lake | July 19, 2023 12:00 AM

ImagineIF Libraries trustees Monday informed Kalispell City Council of their interest in the recently vacated historic rail building near Depot Park as a potential new home for the system’s Kalispell branch.

Trustees Jane Wheeler and Carmen Cuthbertson appealed to Mayor Mark Johnson and Council to consider making the city-owned building and surrounding property available as the site for a new library, describing the downtown plot as an attractive alternative to the system’s Kalispell location. The pair made the request during the public comment portion of Council’s regularly scheduled July 17 meeting.

Wheeler and Cuthbertson make up the library board’s facilities committee and are charged with finding a suitable replacement to the current Kalispell location. They argued that relocating the branch next to the park would benefit both the library system and the city’s core area.

The committee likes the site in part because it sits along the multi-use Parkline Trail, a redeveloped rail corridor running through downtown Kalispell, the trustees said.

The property is leased to the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, but the group vacated the facility in June and notified the city in a letter last week that it will be terminating its lease in September, according to chamber President Lorraine Clarno.

The library systems’ Kalispell branch is currently housed in a former post office building — owned by Kalispell Public Schools — located downtown on First Avenue East. The library’s lease expires in 10 years, but trustees are looking for a new home sooner, with the status of the First Avenue East location uncertain.

In March, then Superintendent Micah Hill said that the school district was open to selling the building, and that new owners might seek to end the lease early.

In a previous interview, Wheeler said that the library’s space and accessibility requirements would necessitate the construction of a new building on the site of the historic depot.

A former Great Northern Railway Depot, the building joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, although federal law does not restrict renovation or demolition of the property because it is not federally owned, according to John Boughton, National Register coordinator for the Montana State Historic Preservation Office.

Councilor Ryan Hunter indicated interest in the trustees’ proposal during Monday’s meeting, but said he would want to look into the project’s feasibility.

Councilor Sam Nunnally said that he is open to discussing the option, but preferred housing a city agency in the building.

“I think there’s a lot of ways that the city could use [the property] rather than giving it to another entity,” Nunnally said. “There’s all kinds of city departments that could use the space.”

COUNCIL ALSO unanimously approved an amendment to the master plan for the Kalispell City Airport that would allow for the construction of an educational and meeting space for the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

The proposed 2,000-square-foot structure would feature a viewing deck overlooking the runway, a state-of-the-art flight simulator and a pilot lounge for members to socialize and for the club to conduct educational programming for children interested in aviation, according to Brent Battles, president of the local chapter. The building would not serve as a hangar for airplane storage, maintenance or construction.

The project has so far been funded by in-kind and financial contributions from aviation enthusiasts, Battles said in an interview.

The project must still go through the planning and review process, including coming before Council, before the club can break ground, but Battles is optimistic that construction can begin this year if all goes to plan.

“We hope to get the foundation done before winter, if we’re lucky we’ll start framing,” he said. “Then hopefully finish it up next spring or summer.”

Reporter Adrian Knowler can be reached at 758-4407 or aknowler@dailyinterlake.com.

This article has been edited for clarity.

Support local journalism — subscribe to the Daily Inter Lake today.