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Library trustees eye Depot Park as potential future home of Kalispell branch

by ADRIAN KNOWLER
Daily Inter Lake | June 6, 2023 12:00 AM

Members of the ImagineIF Libraries Board of Trustees are eyeing Depot Park as a potential new home for its Kalispell branch.

Trustees turned their attention to the 15 Depot Park building after learning of the planned departure of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and its Convention and Visitor Bureau from the building in the coming months. Chamber officials cited size restrictions and increased homeless activity in the neighboring city park as reasons for leaving the centrally-located building.

According to Trustee Jane Wheeler, who serves on the committee tasked with identifying potential library sites, the area has advantages that piqued her interest, including sufficient parking and a central location along the multi-use Parkline Trail that runs through downtown Kalispell.

“I think it will really help Depot Park and will be a presence that will increase use of the park more than it’s used now,” Wheeler said. “I think it’s a win-win for us and the city.”

Trustee Carmen Cuthbertson, also a facilities committee member, agreed that the library would prefer to stay downtown to maintain access for patrons. She called the Depot Park location “promising.”

The committee wants the next library to be at least 40,000 square feet in size, which Cuthbertson says would require a two-story building if the branch were to stay in the city’s core area.

Wheeler said the existing Depot Park building would have to be demolished and a new facility constructed to meet size and accessibility requirements.

The building — a former Great Northern Railway Depot — was added to 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.

Cuthbertson said that the committee remains in the early stages of the search, and has not yet made a recommendation to the board as a whole.

Board Chair Doug Adams said that he could see the location — which is among at least eight that the facilities committee is evaluating — meeting the library system’s needs, but that the city would have to agree to sell the property to the county first.

The property is owned by the city, and leased to the Kalispell chamber for $1 per year as part of a 35-year agreement last renewed in 2006.

When asked about the property’s future, Kalispell City Manager Doug Russell said he could “envision several municipal services as potentially being recommended to relocate to that facility,” though the city has not yet received notice from the chamber terminating the lease.

Were the trustees to select a location for a new Kalispell branch, it would require final approval from the Flathead County commissioners. The commissioners had previously favored a portion of the Gateway Community Center as an affordable option.

Trustees had expressed concerns with the choice, saying that the facility was not centrally located in the city and would require extensive renovation to transform it into a suitable space.

The property was taken off the table late last month when it was sold to Evergreen-based security company Integrated Security Solutions.

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