Kalispell Approves Eight-Story Parking Garage Project

The $9.2 million parking structure will include multifamily housing and commercial space in downtown Kalispell’s current Eagles lot

By Maggie Dresser
Rendering of proposed parking structure at the intersection in downtown Kalispell at the corner of 1st Ave W and 1st St W. Courtesy image.

A proposal to build a $9.2 million, eight-story parking garage with 78 multifamily units and commercial space is moving forward in Kalispell after the city council on Oct. 3 approved multiple resolutions and a conditional use permit that will support the project, despite opposition from some residents and business owners.

The council passed a developer agreement and a transfer of two city-owned properties on Third Street West and Main Street and the southeast corner of First Street West and First Avenue West to the developer, Montana Hotel Development Partners LLC. It also approved a parking structure lease agreement and a conditional use permit that will allow the parking garage height to be over 60 feet.

In an 8-1 vote, the developer agreement and the two land transfer resolutions passed with Councilor Ryan Hunter in opposition. The conditional use permit and the lease agreement passed unanimously.

The 242-stall parking structure will be built at the current Eagles parking lot property at the southeast corner of First Street West and First Avenue West, which is part of an 86,000-square-foot, multi-million-dollar project called the Charles Hotel that will be built on the corner of Third Street West and Main Street.

The hotel will generate significant tax revenue for the city. While the parking garage will be entirely financed and constructed by the developer, the city will reimburse the cost of the properties using TIF funds generated from the hotel’s revenue.

While almost all the councilors supported the project, Councilor Hunter did not support the specifics of the developer agreement or the land transfers.

“I could support a developer agreement, having a new hotel and housing downtown is great, but I just can’t support this developer agreement due to the amount of unnecessary public subsidy going to the developer,” Hunter said.

Several members of the public, including residents, business owners, and employees of nonprofit organizations, spoke in opposition of the project, who said the proposal has been rushed, there was little public involvement and argued the architectural design would ruin Kalispell’s historic character. Many were also concerned that the additional hotel and housing density would reduce total parking, despite the addition of the parking garage.

The Charles Hotel. Rendering courtesy of A&E Design

Employees at Community Action Partnership of Northwest Montana (CAPNM) said the construction of the Charles Hotel, which is near the nonprofit, will disrupt services and leave staff and clients with nowhere to park.

“We operate a large number of services, we serve over 5,000 households a year and many of the households are disabled and handicapped or elderly,” CAPNM Executive Director Tracy Diaz said. “We will lose our to handicapped parking spots to the Charles during construction.”

Diaz was also frustrated because she said CAPNM was “never part of the discussion.”

Bill Goldberg, owner of Compass Construction and one of the developing partners with Montana Hotel Developers, applauded the city’s staff for their work on the private-public partnership and reiterated that the public had plenty of opportunity to participate in discussions since the proposal was submitted to the city last year.

“You have had these meetings for some time now and to hear some folks say they were not invited to the meetings shocked me,” Goldberg said.

“It’s an open door,” he added. “Yes, I have a vested interest for my project and for my investors but it’s also for the city of Kalispell. The platform has been established for quite some time to have those discussions. We have opened the door multiple times for multiple groups.”

Other members of the public spoke critically of the parking garage design.

“Eight stories greatly exceeds any other structure in downtown and it does not comport with the character of downtown,” said John Hinchey, a Kalispell resident who has restored historic buildings in the city.

“I’m also opposed to using TIF funds to benefit one private developer,” he added.

Senior Planner PJ Sorensen said that while the site is located within the downtown historic district, it is outside of the Main Street historic district and said the design meets the architectural review standards.