Moving Dirt

This valley is about to look far different than it does now

By Kellyn Brown

The amount of dirt being moved, or about to be moved, in Northwest Montana is unprecedented. Just five years removed from a recession that lingered longer here than the rest of state, construction is officially booming. It’s difficult to keep track of all the projects that have broken ground, or are about to break ground, or are in the planning stages. I’ll try to clear it up here with a breakdown of large projects in the works.

Kalispell Bypass (Highway 93 Alternate Route) The final phase of this massive road project recently broke ground on the west side of the city and could be completed by the end of next year. The final 4.5 miles of road will connect West Reserve Drive to the existing bypass at U.S. Highway 2 and the contract to build the final phase is the largest awarded in state history. Cost $34 million (total, including previous phases, over $100 million)

Spring Prairie Phase Four The large-scale development, adjacent to the Kidsports Complex just south of Costco on U.S. 93 in Kalispell, is already underway. The 28 acres will include a hotel, SpringHill Suites Marriott, which is scheduled to be completed by May of next year. The remaining lots are expected to fill out quickly. Cost $6.99 million for Marriott (another $40 to $50 million in future development)

Core Area Revitalization Plan A $10 million federal transportation grant recently awarded to Kalispell will expedite this transformative project. A rail park will be developed off Whitefish Stage Road; railroad tracks downtown will be replaced by a linear park; and disjointed streets will be reconnected. Construction should begin early next spring. Cost $22 million

Whitefish City Hall The walls of the old city hall were knocked down last week and work has now begun on its replacement. Along with a new three-story city hall building, an adjacent parking structure with more than 250 parking spots is also in the works. Cost $14.66 million

The Galleries Across from city hall and nearly completed, this two-story building constructed with reclaimed timber siding will feature retail space on the first floor and condos, which will be available for nightly and weekly rentals, on the second floor. Cost $2.4 million

Whitefish Boutique Hotel The Averills’ new hotel on the corner of Second Street and Spokane Avenue in downtown Whitefish is well underway. The structure, which is being built on a site called Block 46, will include more than 80 rooms and about 70 parking spaces. A potential name for the property is The Empire Hotel. Cost $10 million

Hampton Inn & Suites Another hotel already under construction in Whitefish, this property is located on the city’s south side on U.S. 93. The three-story Hampton Inn will include 76 rooms, a swimming pool, conference room and virtual golf simulator. The hotel is scheduled to be completed in April. Cost $8 million

Columbia Falls Hotel and Convention Center Recently approved by the Columbia Falls City Council, this 25,000-square-foot facility will include at least 60 rooms and a 3,000-square-foot convention center. Construction could begin this winter and, if everything goes according to plan, the hotel could open as early as next summer. Cost $7.6 million

Bigfork High School Redevelopment Last month voters overwhelmingly approved a bond request to redevelop Bigfork High School. An estimated 14,000 square feet of new space will be built onto the existing building, with added classrooms and updated facilities. Construction could begin next spring. Cost $13.8 million

The dollars invested in these projects, which is by no means a complete list, totals about $120 million. This valley is about to look far different than it does now.

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