A group of nonprofit agencies announced Tuesday it was purchasing the former Gateway West Mall on the west end of Kalispell, securing the vision of former county administrator Earl Bennett, who hoped to develop a centralized campus for health and human services.
Sherry Stevens, executive director of Northwest Montana United Way, said Westside CCC, Inc. is acquiring the former shopping mall on behalf of the Gateway Community Center, which encompasses a dozen nonprofit groups, including the Flathead Food Bank, CASA for Kids and Summit Independent Living Center. Westside CCC is a new entity that will hold the asset apart from the assets of United Way.
Negotiations have been underway for over a year to purchase the property, Stevens said. Earlier this month, United Way announced a campaign to raise $1 million to help purchase the site from its owners, American Capital Group, a private equities firm headquartered in California.
Several businesses, organizations and residents donated to the fundraising campaign, and at “the 11th hour” a local resident who wishes to remain anonymous helped complete the financing, Stevens said.
The purchase price is $2.4 million for the 100,000-square-foot building.
“There were many community players that came together to make Earl Bennett’s dream a reality. We are grateful to Glacier Bank; Montana West Economic Development; PureWest Real Estate; Moore, Cockrell, Goicoechea & Axelberg, PC; JCCS CPA’s PC; Rotary Clubs; private donors; and the many professionals that have given countless hours of their time to guide us through the process,” Stevens said.
“We are grateful to the Kalispell Ministerial Association and the hundreds of individuals who have been praying about the outcome of the purchase. It is truly a miracle for which we give thanks.”
The 60,645-square-foot section of property where TeleTech operates will not be part of the sale.
The community center and its nonprofits serve roughly 1,700 clients each month, according to administrators.
Acquiring the site prevents the agencies from being uprooted and allows the community center to begin expanding 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.
“Saving this community investment was critical to the project and our community,” stated Jim Oliverson, an executive with Kalispell Regional Healthcare and a chairperson with Westside CCC. “Hundreds of volunteers have devoted time and energy to this effort.”
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.
The Flathead County Commissioners hosted a $40,000 planning grant through the Department of Commerce that helped purchase the facility, according to Stevens. The grant allowed for an architectural review, appraisal and environmental study of the site.
Oliverson described the purchase of the former mall as a “landmark event that will propel the project forward.”
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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