Economic Authority Releases Map to Encourage Development on Proposed Rail Trail

Officials still hope to remove tracks through downtown in 2020

By Justin Franz
City officials tour the railroad through downtown Kalispell on June 4, 2018 to help plan for the trail that will eventually replace it. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Montana West Economic Development and the City of Kalispell have released a new online interactive map they hope will encourage redevelopment along the proposed Kalispell Trail through downtown.

The map depicts properties that are for sale in the Kalispell Opportunity Zone along the former Great Northern Railway tracks. The track could be removed sometime in 2020 to make way for a new trail that will connect Meridian Road with Woodland Park. The track is owned by BNSF Railway and used by a short line operator, the Mission Mountain Railroad.

In 2018, Flathead County completed construction of the Glacier Rail Park in Evergreen, paving the way for the removal of two miles of track slicing through downtown. The rail park included space for the final two rail-served customers in downtown: the CHS Kalispell grain elevator and Northwest Drywall. Earlier this month, CHS closed the grain elevator and Northwest Drywall is currently putting the finishing touches on its new building in the rail park. The tracks near downtown are also being used to temporarily store unused rail cars.

The interactive map shows an overview of the downtown area with properties for sale outlined in orange. When a user clicks on the property they can get information about who is selling it and the asking price.

“The City of Kalispell and Flathead County Economic Development Authority have worked tirelessly for years to bring the community to this point for new investment. In the next 12-18 months properties that were once hemmed in by railroad tracks will be opened up to access the Kalispell Trail. We are already seeing developers begin to purchase land with plans to invest in mixed-use development,” said Kim Morisaki, director of business development and marketing at Montana West Economic Development.

The Kalispell Opportunity Zone designation also allows potential investors to take advantage of tax breaks to encourage long-term development.

To see the map, visit http://www.kalispellcoreandrail.com/opportunity-zone.html.