The cranes and bulldozers in north Kalispell might not be humming as frantically as in years past, but dirt is still moving and new businesses are popping up.
The days of the big box-store bonanza appear to be slowing, however, perhaps settling into a trend line that reflects the rise of online shopping and the limits of even rapid population growth.
“Big box retail is definitely slowing down,” said Kalispell Planning and Zoning Director Tom Jentz. “There is an end to the significant commercial growth at the scale we were seeing. We have a lot of retail space up north and our population is growing, but it has to catch up to a degree. We’re also really adjusting to Amazon.com.”
Over the past two decades, development has transformed the open space of north Kalispell into a busy commercial district. The Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s and Costco, previously located off of U.S. Highway 2 between Kalispell and Columbia Falls, kicked off the boom between 2001 and 2005, followed by Hutton Ranch Plaza, Sportsman & Ski Haus and much more in ensuing years.
REI opened south of Costco last fall, on the heels of SpringHill Suites by Marriott, HomeGoods, Hobby Lobby and Harbor Freight Tools, which all emerged between 2016-2018. Costa Vida, Mattress Firm, Krispy Kreme, Panera Bread, T-Mobile and MOD Pizza also opened there during the same time period. There is space for a big box store in that cluster, but nothing is in the pipeline yet.
All the new activity up north this year has been of the smaller variety, led by office space and restaurants.
The corridor along Old Reserve Drive, which wraps behind Costco and around Glacier High School, is ground zero for 2019 commercial construction. Urban Bricks Pizza, Grease Monkey and MyPlace Hotel have all opened along Old Reserve and Treeline Road within the last year, while Sable Coffee and Bounty Barber are moving into a three-space building in the same area.
On the opposite side of the U.S. Highway 93 Alternate Route, near Glacier Eye Clinic, new buildings for D.A. Davidson and PayneWest Insurance are underway. Immediately west of Costa Vida, Spectrum is constructing a new cell-phone facility, while Jimmy John’s is opening a second location.
Nearby, Riddle’s Jewelry is relocating from the Kalispell Center Mall into a location next to MOD Pizza. Firehouse Subs is opening in the former Bojangles across Highway 93, rounding out the new 2019 commercial arrivals in north Kalispell.
While commercial retail has cooled in Kalispell, as has school and health care construction, residential has plowed forward at a robust clip this year, led by multi-family units.
Site improvements are underway for the first phase — 108 units — of the 324-unit apartment complex called the Crossings at Spring Creek on Two Mile Drive. Also along Two Mile, due north of the Gateway Community Center, the first 48 units of a 120-unit apartment complex are under construction.
The largest new single-family subdivision, Meadow’s Edge along Three Mile Drive, has built 20 houses already under contract since breaking ground earlier this year, Jentz said. The development ultimately plans to construct 322 homes altogether.
“Dirt is flying over there,” Jentz said.