The Flathead County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) closed a sale agreement with Evergreen-based Integrated Security Solutions for a section of the former Gateway West Mall, a large, multi-use space in west Kalispell that the development authority has owned a piece of since 1999. The departure last year of inbound call center TeleTech left the 63,000-square-foot property vacant.
“It’s great that to hand it over to a local company that’s doing well. It wasn’t doing us any good holding it empty,” said Christy Cummings Dawson, President and CEO of Montana West Economic Development, a private nonprofit that provides management and administrative services to FCEDA.
Integrated Security Solutions (ISS) is an Evergreen-based company that provides physical and electronic security systems for government infrastructure facilities worldwide such as dams and military installations.
Separate from FCEDA’s portion of the Gateway West property, a portion of the facility is home to the Gateway Community Center, owned by Northwest Montana United Way, which hosts a variety of nonprofit organizations. The Flathead Food Bank also owns a small portion of the mall, which it purchased in December 2020.
Over the last year, discussions about the future of the FCEDA property have taken root among Flathead county officials and the ImagineIF Library Trustees, who are seeking a new location for the Kalispell library branch.
Last year, the Flathead County Commissioners offered the library board a deal in which the county would acquire the FCEDA portion of the Gateway West facility as part of a debt-swap transaction, essentially making it a cash-free option for the library, other than the cost of renovations. After initially rejecting the offer, the trustees reconsidered it several times over the last few months. However, trustees remained split over the acquisition, with some board members citing concerns that it’s too far from the city center and is aesthetically unappealing. On the other hand, board chair Doug Adams continually argued that it was the only location currently available and within the library’s budget.
Despite the divisions, the trustees in April voted 3-2 to ask the county commission to send a non-binding letter of intent to FCEDA, which the commissioners approved on May 16; however, the building was already under contract with ISS at the time.
With the Gateway West property off the table as a possible new library location, the trustees are continuing to investigate numerous options. Trustees Jane Wheeler and Carmen Cuthbertsen, who make up the ImagineIF facilities committee, have identified 23 potential properties, with eight considered to be “strong possibilities,” according to Wheeler. The options include bare land requiring construction of a new building as well as existing structures that could be remodeled.
As part of the library’s budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, the trustees asked the county to add library facilities to the Capital Improvement Plan and allocate $5 million over 10 years. Library director Ashley Cummins confirmed Thursday that she had received a preliminary commitment from the commissioners for half of the requested funding. The county’s public information officer later clarified that the commissioners were committing to the funding on a yearly basis, in order to be “somewhat flexible for what they need.”
This story has been updated to add comment from the county’s PIO.
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