Almost a decade ago when Trish Nguyen opened Nail Toepia in downtown Kalispell, she remembers a sleepy Main Street with few retail shops and minimal traffic or activity.
“Downtown was pretty sad,” Nguyen said. “Nothing was happening yet – The Toggery wasn’t even here. We were the first on our block to put anything in.”
Eight years later, Nguyen and her husband are about to open their latest business venture, The Ritz, a 1920s themed nail salon, cocktail lounge and casino on Main Street. The combined business concept will allow customers to have a cocktail while getting their nails done in between playing slot machines at the “Gambling Hall.”
“It’s the first one in the nation with a full cocktail lounge, a casino and a kitchen,” Nguyen said.
Construction on The Ritz began last fall and Nguyen said she’s working with more than 50 different contractors, ranging from HVAC companies to specialty artists who did the finishing touches of the custom interior.
Formerly the Kalispell Bar and ScottiBelli’s Ristorante, the space sat vacant before she started working on it. Nguyen brought the building up to code, completely gutted it and installed new electrical panels and rooftop units for the salon’s high-tech HVAC system. The Ritz will open this spring once construction is complete.
Nguyen is one of many entrepreneurs taking advantage of downtown Kalispell’s revitalization.
Last year, the KM Bar and Mercantile Steak opened in the historic KM building after developer Bill Goldberg purchased it from longtime owner Bill Goodman. The Alchemy Lounge recently opened on First Avenue West, developer Mick Ruis is working on a restaurant and housing project along the new Parkline Trail and developers are also planning to build a five-story hotel and parking garage this year.
“I just think once you start bringing services and amenities in, it starts creating a desire to be downtown and that feeds off itself,” according to BOND Partners CEO Robert Watson.
Based out of San Diego, Watson is working with Goldberg and John Costa, who owns the Alchemy Lounge, to build a five-story, 86,000-square-foot boutique hotel on the corner of Third Street West and Main Street, which is currently a parking lot.
The trio collaborated to form Montana Hotel Development, LLC a year-and-a-half ago, and the developers plan to focus on Kalispell’s urban core. In addition to the $34 million hotel, they also plan to build a 250-space parking garage at the Eagles lot at the southeast corner of First Street West and First Avenue West.
While the properties are city-owned, the parcel on Main Street intended for the hotel is in the process of a land transfer to the developers and the parking garage will remain city-owned, utilizing tax increment financing (TIF) funds generated from the hotel. Commercial space on the bottom level of the parking garage is also planned.
The unnamed hotel, which was originally called the Charles Hotel as it went through city council, will feature 79 units, a full-service restaurant, a rooftop bar and a valet parking service. Office spaces are proposed for the project to house hotel operations staff, likely in an existing building near the hotel site.
Watson describes the City of Kalispell as “fantastic to work with” and as the team finishes up design work and ties up loose ends with city officials, the hotel is expected to break ground in the coming months.
At the former CHS grain elevator property, Flathead Valley developer Mick Ruis’ teams have been working on aboveground construction on the Center Street and Fifth Avenue West property along the new Parkline Trail. Crews are building a bar and restaurant on top of the historic 100-foot grain silo and 230 residential units on an adjoining 5-acre parcel.
New businesses along the Parkline Trail have been steadily emerging in recent years and more commercial and residential projects are in the works after the railroad tracks were removed last spring.
Crews started construction on the $8.1 million Parkline Trail after the tracks were ripped out last spring and hardscaping, electrical work, benches and pedestrian crossing signals have been installed. Kalispell Community and Economic Development Coordinator Krista Lammers says final landscaping touches are in progress and there will be a map etched into the concrete in Depot Park, which will be completed in May.
Lammers says the trail’s construction is on track for completion by the first week in June.
“It’s been years in the making and there’s been so many people and organizations in this community that have worked together to make this dream come true for the community,” Lammers said. “Not only will it really open pedestrian connectivity within the core area, but it also brings along with it an encouragement of redevelopment of properties along that corridor. It will promote commerce in the downtown and core areas.”
For Watson, he believes there’s a lot of potential in downtown Kalispell and he says the hotel project and future developments will help drive the city’s growth.
“We are bullish on Kalispell,” Watson said.
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