Montana West Economic Development is assisting the property holder of the Gateway Community Center in Kalispell by assigning an employee to serve as interim property manager to help “set the direction for sustainability” at the nonprofit campus.
Kim Morisaki, MWED’s director of business development and marketing, began on Feb. 3 and will serve the role for up to three months. Morisaki’s responsibilities include updating and negotiating lease agreements with tenants, ensuring that maintenance tasks are addressed and aiding in the development of policies and procedures moving forward.
Tamara Williams, chair of the Gateway Community Center Advisory Council, said the “council is thrilled to be partnering with MWED and Kim Morisaki.” The advisory council is composed of representatives from the building’s larger tenants, including TTEC, Flathead Food Bank and Kalispell Regional Healthcare, which operates a patient accounting office there.
“Kim’s experience with nonprofits and energetic leadership style will allow the Gateway and its tenant partners to continue to provide the human services vital to our community,” Williams said.
Northwest Montana United Way led the effort to transform a 100,000-square-foot portion of the vacant Gateway West Mall into a nonprofit campus called the Gateway Community Center, and formed a separate corporation called Westside CCC to hold ownership of the property, although the two entities have shared a board and executive director. United Way pays rent to Westside CCC for its offices and conference rooms.
The previous executive director of United Way and Westside CCC, Sherry Stevens, resigned in December amid controversy, including questions from nonprofit leaders and community members about the state of finances at Gateway Community Center, tenant relationships, leasing structure and maintenance concerns at the property.
The MWED press release noted that Westside CCC’s goal moving forward is to “respond to tenants’ concerns in a timely fashion while building community confidence through organizational transparency.”
“The vision of creating one dynamic location for many nonprofits to come together and serve the community was a great idea,” Morisaki said. “It was a big idea.”
“Managing the building and operations allows nonprofits to focus on their mission and achieve real efficiency, not having to worry about such things as maintenance or snow removal,” she continued. “MWED’s hope is that we can help to create a system that makes it easier for the tenants to serve the community while also creating a strategy to maintain the building inside and out for the long term.”
MWED’s sister organization, Flathead County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA), owns the 60,000-square-foot portion of the building that houses TTEC, and Morisaki said the economic development groups are interested in ensuring the property is well-maintained and the nonprofit campus thrives, which she said can have ripple benefits throughout the community. FCEDA and Westside CCC are currently working together to redo the east-side parking lot.
The press release noted that the partnership between MWED and Westside CCC “will help to establish a strong future for the Gateway Community Center by creating a framework of policies and procedures that lay the foundation for Gateway’s success as a hub for nonprofits for years to come.”
Morisaki said the goal is to eventually fill all vacancies at the center, which includes a half-dozen or so regular spaces and a large daycare area. She noted that the expansive childcare space, which is “beautiful inside,” could fill an important need in the community once licensed and with a daycare provider onboard.
United Way board members have previously said the plan is to ultimately hire a full-time property manager for Gateway Community Center, which they say is an important component of the region’s nonprofit landscape and a broader community asset.
Morisaki said she’s eager to work with Westside CCC, the advisory council and United Way’s new executive director, Roxanna Parker, who started in January.
“I’m excited about it,” Morisaki said. “I think there are some great opportunities.”
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