Outlook Edition

Large Commercial Projects Making Strides

Some of the valley’s biggest proposed developments will begin to take shape this year

By Micah Drew
Downtown Kalispell on May 19, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

An hour before sunrise on the first Monday of 2022 the temperature in Kalispell finally cracked double digits. That’s when workers began pouring the concrete footings for the first 40 units of an anticipated development along the new Parkline Trail. 

Mick Ruis is one of several developers bullish on the prospects of Kalispell’s core area, recently transformed by the Parkline Trail that cuts across the heart of downtown from Meridian Road to U.S. Highway 2 near Woodland Park. The area is part of Kalispell’s federally designated Opportunity Zone, which the city along with Flathead County Economic Development Authority has invested in to promote economic redevelopment. 

Ruis is utilizing five of the more than 45 acres of vacant or underutilized property to build 230 residential units surrounding the former CHS grain silos. 

A rendering of the residential and commercial development at the old CHS grain silos.
Developer Mick Ruis’ plan for the former CHS grain elevator property. Rendering courtesy of Jackola Engineering and Architecture

At the top of the silos Ruis is perching a restaurant, with a bar one level below, cut into the silos’ upper sections. Dining patrons will enjoy expansive views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Jackola Engineering & Architecture is designing the project for Ruis Construction.

“We’re really looking forward to getting the silos reinforced and starting work up there,” Ruis said. “I want to give people a place where they can have a great dining experience without making dinner unaffordable.”

Ruis said the first 80 residential units will be done in November and the next 140, phase two, will also get underway later this year. The third and final phase will be the actual restaurant and bar. In addition, there will be at least two retail spaces on the corner of Fifth Avenue West and Center Street. 

Up in Columbia Falls, Ruis is also working on a block-sized multi-phase project on Nucleus Avenue and Fifth Street. The project includes 48 residential units, a steakhouse and bar, retail spaces and a boutique hotel. Nucleus Avenue will have 7,500 square feet of new commercial space by the end of the development process. 

Ruis said that footings and dirt work will begin in February where the old First Citizens bank used to sit, with a goal of having it built out within seven months. At a recent Columbia Falls city council meeting, Ruis floated the idea of closing off the end of Fifth Street and creating a small city square. The city’s parks committee plans to make it part of a broader community discussion on downtown development. 

Ruis said he does not yet have anyone lined up to manage either the Kalispell restaurant and bar or the sports bar and steakhouse in Columbia Falls, but he expects it to be worked out as construction nears its end. 

“I’m just giving people the opportunity to live within walking distance of anything they want,” he said. “I’ll build it and they will come.” 

Also on Nucleus Avenue, Uptown Hearth owner Terri Feury is using an extended business closure due to COVID to add two stories to the bakery building, allowing for an expanded ground floor that will include a coffee roaster, with hopes of reopening this year. 

Molly McCabe
Molly McCabe, CEO and Founder of Hayden and Tanner, a real estate investment and development firm, is pictured on a vacant five acre plot of land along the Kalispell Parkline Trail acquired by her company. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Back in Kalispell on the other end of the Parkline Trail corridor, Molly McCabe, the CEO of HaydenTanner, a strategic advisory and development firm, is planning a mixed-use development on Fourth Avenue EN. 

The 5-acre parcel’s development is still in the early stages and McCabe is working with a local designer to create a mixed space that will include at least 80 units, likely apartments and townhomes, along with local restaurants and retail space.

McCabe said recently that she expects the property to be under construction for most of the year as building permits are taking longer to obtain due to the city-wide push for development. While she hasn’t locked down any businesses just yet, she says the interest level is high due to the property’s proximity to the trail.

Elsewhere in downtown, another familiar name in Flathead’s development scene, Bill Goldberg, is continuing to shape his properties in Kalispell. 

Goldberg, who own Compass Construction, purchased the KM Building last year, and approached restauranter Pat Carloss to open the KM Bar and Mercantile Steak. Goldberg currently has an application in front of the Kalispell planning board requesting a Conditional Use Permit to open a casino in the basement of the KM Building that will be called the KM Speakeasy.  

The Charles Hotel. Rendering courtesy of A&E Design

Goldberg is also spearheading a project to bring a five-story, 86,000-square-foot boutique hotel to the corner of Third Street West and Main Street. Named after Charles Conrad, the Charles Hotel would have 79 units, a full-service restaurant, a rooftop bar and valet parking service. 

A 165-space parking garage is also proposed at the city’s Eagles lot at the southeast corner of First Street West and First Avenue West. The final component of the proposal is a “collection of support office spaces” to house hotel operations staff, likely in an existing building near the hotel site.

Kalispell City Manager Doug Russell said that the final negotiations for the project are underway and it will come before city council within the month. 

“It’s really nice seeing these developments coming to fruition,” Russell said. “You put that type of public investment into the removal of the train tracks and revitalizing downtown spaces with the goal of spurring on private development and investment and that’s exactly what we’re seeing.”