Kalispell Considers Urban Core Upgrades

By Beacon Staff

The construction slowdown has allowed Kalispell officials some breathing room to pause in their consideration of new buildings, and think about improving what is already built – namely, the city’s urban core. At the Jan. 5 city council meeting, Community and Economic Development Director Kellie Danielson presented a revitalization plan for a large swath of downtown Kalispell’s north and west side, corresponding roughly with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks.

The plan seeks to offer low interest loans to property owners to improve their homes and land, should they wish. It would also tighten city code enforcement for such violations as abandoned cars, overcrowding, or uses that conflict with the zoning for that neighborhood.

The council voted to pass the revitalization plan onto the planning board, with only Councilman Bob Hafferman dissenting, out of concern that such “gentrification” plans can price longtime residents out of their neighborhoods. Danielson emphasized that it would not: “We don’t have any intention of relocating anyone,” she said. “We want to provide resources, if we can, for people who do want to improve their living quality.”

Another similarly named “revitalization” plan by the city looks at what might replace the BNSF tracks in the future, should Cenex ever choose to relocate to another part of the city. Among the ideas is a “linear park,” a kind of pedestrian and bicycle path through Kalispell along the tracks that links several city parks. Other concepts include increasing the density of the city’s urban core, with mixed-use development that promotes foot traffic and encourages more people to live downtown. City officials concede any such ideas are a long way off, though the recession does allow time to plan for when the economy rebounds.