Group Raising Funds to Acquire Gateway Community Center

United Way leading campaign to secure $1 million by end of September

By Dillon Tabish
Gateway West Mall on April 30, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

A collective of local nonprofit organizations is trying to raise $1 million to purchase the former Gateway West Mall in Kalispell.

The United Way of Northwest Montana, one of a dozen agencies operating inside the large site off U.S. Highway 2 West, is spearheading the campaign to raise funds by Sept. 30. The one-time fundraising effort would secure the future of the Gateway Community Center and allow the agencies to continue growing the space as a centrally located social services campus. If the groups do not raise the needed funds by the end of the month, the campaign will still continue but it will be less publicized so as not to interfere with the United Way’s annual fundraising campaign, according to Sherry Stevens with United Way. The agencies have the site leased through 2018.

American Capital Group, a private equities firm headquartered in California, owns the former mall and has leased it to the agencies since 2008. The community center is home to the Flathead Food Bank, United Way and Volunteer Center, Literacy Center of Northwest Montana, CASA for Kids, Summit Independent Living Center and other locally based nonprofits that serve roughly 1,700 clients each month, according to administrators.

Acquiring the site would prevent the agencies from being uprooted and would allow the community center to expand its services and programs. A proposed activity center is planned as a venue for larger events, meetings and youth and senior activities. The goal is to have 19 agencies that provide a total of 50 different programs and services, administrators say.

Since 2009, 3,042 volunteers have donated 23,341 hours of time to the Gateway Community Center project, according to administrators. In-kind contributions of lumber, sheet rock, building materials and a multitude of other resources totaling more than $200,000 have been invested into the project. A total of $162,222 has been invested in cash.

In May, American Capital Group attempted to sell the property on Auction.com, with a starting bid of $600,000. The property failed to sell online.

The 60,645-square-foot section of property where TeleTech operates will not be part of the sale.

The property is adjacent to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services facility, which includes Child and Family Services and Welfare-to-Work related programs.

Originally called the Gateway West Shopping Center and Plaza, the mall opened in the spring of 1973 on an open section of 26 acres on U.S. Highway 2 West. It began to transition from being a retail center in the 1990s before sitting vacant for years until the community center was developed in 2009.

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