Like I Was Saying

The Reinvention Underway

As the properties surrounding the Kalispell mall are rapidly redeveloped, it’s hard to imagine the mall remains the same

By Kellyn Brown

This week the Kalispell Center Mall will host a pop-up consignment shopping event in the vacant former Herberger’s on the west end of the building. It’s the first time I can remember the prime downtown real estate being utilized since the clothing store chain was sold at auction for liquidation in 2018.

The closure came less than a year after the retailer completed a 40,000-square-foot expansion. It’s essentially a new building that has sat unused for the last four years. But I can’t imagine it sitting empty for another four. 

The mall in downtown is unique because, well, it’s located downtown. Most malls built over the last few decades were constructed on sprawling pieces of property on the outskirts of cities. The shopping centers have large footprints and huge parking lots, better suited for the suburbs. 

Yet the Center Mall is, quite literally, located on Kalispell’s Main Street. That was less conspicuous a decade ago when the city was a far sleepier place, with plenty of commercial properties available for lease and little new development in sight. That, of course, is changing fast. 

Within the last year, two new restaurants, Mercantile Steak and Alchemy Lounge, have opened. The Ritz will soon join the KM Bar as new drinking establishments downtown. And more development is on the way – with one of the largest mixed-use projects right across the street from the mall and its vacant Herberger’s building. That’s where a developer has broken ground on the first phase of what will end up being more than 200 residential units and a restaurant and bar perched on top of the historic 100-foot grain silos. 

Plans are also in the works for a five-story boutique hotel in the heart of downtown with a full-service restaurant, roof-top bar and nearby 250-space parking garage. 

As the properties surrounding the mall are rapidly redeveloped, it’s hard to imagine the mall remains the same. It’s also increasingly hard to imagine that the mall remains an enclosed mall at all. The ground below it is only becoming more valuable as the downtown area continues to lure more investment.

It also bodes well for the property that the new multi-million-dollar Parkline Trail runs adjacent to the north side of the building. The trail, built with federal grant money, traverses across the heart of downtown from Meridian Road to U.S. Highway 2 near Woodland Park. It is scheduled to be finished this summer.

The question now is what will the Center Mall look like in four years when many of these projects, now in the works, are completed. There is a cottage industry in repurposing large vacant spaces into something else. Old malls are now home to health care services, churches and even corporate offices. But I imagine this property will eventually look a lot like what is being built around it. 

Kalispell’s downtown is uniquely positioned to reinvent itself as a truly mixed-used and vibrant city with several multi-family housing units within walking distance of stores, restaurants and open spaces. And the reinvention is already underway. 

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