Glacier Medical Associates, OrthoRehab Look to Purchase Former Plum Creek Office in Columbia Falls

Zoning for ‘Cedar Palace’ building changed, sale expected to close in November

By Justin Franz
The former Cedar Palace administrative office in Columbia Falls. Beacon file photo

Glacier Medical Associates and OrthoRehab Physical Therapy are teaming up to purchase the former Plum Creek Timber Co. office building — known to locals as the “Cedar Palace” — as part of a major expansion for both organizations.

This week, the Columbia Falls City Council voted to change the zoning where the Cedar Palace sits from industrial to commercial, and if everything goes according to plan, Glacier Medical and OrthoRehab will close on the building in early November.

While OrthoRehab currently has a facility in Columbia Falls — as well as in Kalispell, Whitefish, Bigfork, Libby, Troy and Dillon — it will be new territory for Glacier Medical, which was formed in 2000 following the merger of two deep-rooted Whitefish doctor’s offices. Dr. John Kalbfleisch, vice president of Glacier Medical, said the expansion into Columbia Falls is a good fit for the clinic because about a quarter of its patients come from the community.

“We want to be where our patients are,” he said.

The 35,000-square-foot Cedar Palace was built in the 1980s and has sat vacant since 2016 when Plum Creek merged with Weyerhaeuser and relocated most of its management employees out of the area. Soon after the offices closed, Weyerhaeuser put the building and surrounding land on the market for approximately $2.6 million. In 2017, Flathead County considered purchasing the building to be the site of a new jail, but that plan was dismissed after an outcry from Columbia Falls residents.

If the sale goes forward, Glacier Medical and OrthoRehab will likely move in over the winter with the hopes of opening for business sometime in the spring or summer of 2020. Glacier Medical and OrthoRehab will likely split most of the first floor. Meanwhile, the two providers are talking with other potential tenants, including a pediatric speech language pathologist and pharmacy, about moving into the second floor.

“It will be a true medical services complex,” Kalbfleisch said.

Tyler Ladenburg, clinical director for OrthoRehab in Columbia Falls, said the Cedar Palace will give Columbia Falls residents more options for care and is excited for the move. As for the name of the new facility, Ladenburg said even if they did come up with something new, it’s unlikely anyone would use it.

“Columbia Falls knows that as the Cedar Palace, so I don’t think the name will change much,” he said.

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