To kick off the new year, the Great Falls Development Authority hosted the second Ignite the Falls event.
“We are bullish about Great Falls. We are hungry to grow Great Falls,” said Jolene Schalper, GFDA vice president. “We are getting after it.”
The Friday morning event included 14 developers, entrepreneurs and government officials who shared details about current and upcoming projects. Here’s some highlights from those presentations:
West Bank Landing
Jeremiah Jones with West Bank Landing was up first and said “to heck with the naysayers” and that great things are happening in the city.
The development includes Spring Hill Suites by Marriott, which is nearing completion, and the west side Peak, which is now open.
Five on Black is coming to the development, to be one of two food chains in a quick-service restaurant building. Johnson said they are close to locking in the restaurant for the other half of the building. The unnamed restaurant doesn’t currently have Montana locations, Johnson said.
“It’s unbelievable the energy that you guys have going on,” said Tom Snyder, Five on Black founder.
He said he’s excited to bring Five on Black to Great Falls in what will be their sixth location.
Mixed Use Building Two is currently under construction, Johnson said, and will include office and retail space. He said the building is filling up, but there are some spaces still available.
Plans for a specialty grocery store are also in the works, but the name of the grocery store has not yet been released. Johnson said construction on Mixed Use Building Three is slated to begin in 2019 and will include residential space.
In November, the Design Review Board reviewed plans for a new three-story office building that is proposed for a 1.12 acre parcel near Broadwater Bay and Mackenzie River Pizza.
Double-Eagle Development LLC is proposing the building with plans to house a bank on the lower level and office space for future tenants on the two upper stories.
When the project went to DRB, the bank hadn’t been named. At Ignite the Falls on Friday, Tom Matthews with Opportunity Bank of Montana said they were the tenant.
The total size is proposed at 21,966 square feet and the property is currently zoned M-2 Mixed-use Transitional.
Malmstrom Air Force Base
William McLaughlin, deputy commander of the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron, detailed the plans for upgrades at the base related to the Huey replacement program and weapons storage area.
The Air Force is currently reviewing bids to replace the UH-1N Huey and is expected to make a selection in the third quarter of fiscal year 2018. The federal fiscal year runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.
The 40th Helicopter Squadron at Malmstrom currently has a fleet of eight Hueys, but the replacement will bring a fleet of 11 helicopters, McLaughlin said.
That means renovations are needed to house those aircraft and to do so, the hangar that was originally built in the 1990s for the KC-135 tanker mission will be remodeled and renovated to accommodate the new helicopters.
The hangar, or Building 1440 also called the three-bay, currently houses missile maintenance operations. A new missile maintenance dispatch facility is planned for construction to make room for the helicopters.
A new facility will also be constructed to house the tactical response force that rides with the 40th to provide missile field security or in the event of an emergency. Currently, the TRF teams and the 40th crews are housed in separate buildings on base, and the new facility will co-locate them in the same building. That means greater communication, coordination and faster response times, according to officials.
Those projects were funded in previous Air Force budgets and McLaughlin said requests for proposals for the TRF building should go out within the next month and construction is scheduled to begin in May. Construction is expected to start in August on the missile maintenance facility. Both of those projects are expected to be completed in 2020.
A new weapons storage area is planned to start construction around 2020, but that project is not yet funded.
Cascade County Commissioner Joe Briggs said the county’s role in economic development is to provide infrastructure and planning services.
“Our people are trained to not just say no, but to find a way to make things work,” he said.
The copper roof at the County Courthouse is one of the infrastructure projects currently underway. The $4 million project is nearing completion, Briggs said.
Roads are another county focus, Briggs said. The Fox Farm Road project was about $2 million and according to Briggs, the improvement is noticeable. The project also came in $330,000 under budget, Briggs said.
In 2017, the county maintained 100 miles of gravel roads and 200 miles of paved roads; completely rebuilt 55.61 miles of gravel roads; and contracted rebuilds, overlays or chip seal for 8.19 miles of paved roads. Overall, the county invested $4.66 million in county roads in 2017, Briggs said.
The county is also undergoing a transition to LED lighting in many county buildings, a $209,000 investment that is projected to create $77,000 in annual energy savings.
Madison Food Park
Todd Hanson, spokesman for Madison Food Park, said the project is about jobs.
“This project isn’t without significant challenges,” he said, but the developers believe they can mitigate those effects.
Hanson said that if approved, the project will bring 12,000 new residents to the area and “will have a substantial impact” on the community, but the developers believe it will be a positive impact.
Hanson told The Electric that Friesen Foods was still working through technical details in collaboration with a pre-treatment technology company and CLEARAS in Missoula before submitting their amended special use permit application.
Here’s some links to other current and upcoming projects in and around Great Falls:
Jenn Rowell is the founding editor of The Electric, an online newspaper in Great Falls, where this article was first published.