Columbia Falls to Consider Mixed-Use Development Downtown

Local developer Mick Ruis wants to build condos, gym on Nucleus Avenue

By Justin Franz
The Ruis Nucleus mixed-use athletic facility and condos slated for construction off of Nucleus Avenue in Columba Falls. Rendering by Montana Creative Architecture + Design

Local developer Mick Ruis is planning to build a major mixed-use development in downtown Columbia Falls.

Ruis’ plan will go before the Columbia Falls City-County Planning Board on March 10 at 6:30 p.m. and then the Columbia Falls City Council on April 6. If approved, Ruis believes it would be a transformative project for Nucleus Avenue, which has already seen a number of new developments in the last few years. Ruis said he is confident that both boards will approve the plan.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it had support,” he said. “I’d say 99 percent of the people I’ve talked to have told me that they think it’s a great idea.”

The proposed project will feature two buildings and a parking lot on 1.5 acres of land at 540 Nucleus Ave., between Fifth and Sixth Street West, which houses the former First Citizen Bank. The bank building, which is currently Hellroaring CrossFit, will be torn down.

One of the proposed buildings would feature a gym and apartments on the upper floors, while the other would have space for a restaurant or other commercial business on the first floor and more apartments on the upper two stories. A new parking lot proposed on the southwestern corner of the property would provide ample space for both people living there and those working or visiting the commercial properties.

If approved, construction would begin on the northernmost building this summer and the second building in 2021.

One possible hiccup in the approval process is that the buildings, at 45 feet tall, would exceed the city’s 35-foot height limits by 10 feet. The application argues that this is necessary for stairway access, elevator shafts and architectural roof elements.

Montana Creative Architecture and Design designed the project.

Ruis has been involved with a number of developments in Columbia Falls and Whitefish over the years, including the Cedar Creek Lodge. Ruis said he believes Columbia Falls is quickly becoming the best place to invest in the Flathead Valley and sees even more growth in the future.

“I just love the people of Columbia Falls,” he said. “If I could, I would do 100 percent of my development there.”

While Ruis is waiting to see if his new project will get approved, he’s already got an eye on the next. He’s currently closing a deal to purchase the old Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. union building near city hall.

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