Developer Ditches Plans to Demolish Historic Whitefish Building

Mick Ruis backs off development plans after public outcry emerges

By Beacon Staff
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building at 341 Central Ave. in Whitefish on Nov. 16, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Updated: Nov. 18, 3:15 p.m.

Plans to raze the Frank Lloyd Wright Building in Whitefish have been ditched following public outcry, according to the developer.

Mick Ruis told the Whitefish Pilot on Thursday that he changed his mind and will not tear down the building on Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish. Ruis said the decision was made after the proposal, which became public earlier this week, sparked a negative reaction amid community members who wished to see the historic site preserved.

Ruis said he would list the building for sale at $1.6 million, the same price he paid when he purchased it.

Ruis originally planned to replace the existing building with a three-story structure featuring retail and office spaces and residential units. He told the Beacon his original motivation behind the development was to create jobs for the local economy, similar to his other investments in Columbia Falls, where he built the Cedar Creek Lodge and Convention Center and is currently developing retail and housing projects in downtown.

The building, which until recently was home to the Morrison & Frampton law offices, is among the only Wright buildings in Montana and was one of the last he ever designed. Wright is one of America’s most famous architects and he designed more than 1,000 buildings before he died in 1959. In 1958, Wright designed the Lockridge Medical Center in Whitefish but passed away before it was completed. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

Gil Jordan, executive director of the Northwest Montana Historical Society, applauded the decision not to demolish the building. He said he hopes someone will buy the building and restore it to its original appearance.

“I have great admiration for this developer doing the right thing,” he said.

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