Broadway Apartments gets first public comment

Three of the Montana Preservation Association’s presenters talk before the start of Tuesday night’s meeting at the Lewistown Public Library. From left to right, CTA Architects Engineers Market Analyst Kieron Hunt, CTA Architects Engineers Urban Planner Dave Dixon and Mosaic Architecture Project Architect Mark Roylance.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

Monday and Tuesday marked the first chance Lewistown had to comment on the future of the Broadway Apartments, and according to building owner Montana Preservation Alliance, the town took advantage of it.

This week was the first of three public input rounds the nonprofit is using to create a preliminary architectural report. The report is described in previous News-Argus stories as a set of schedules and cost estimates for the building.

MPA Restoration Director Dustin Kalanick explained his organization was looking to attract developers for the Broadway Apartment, and planned to use the finished report as a selling point.

“It’s an appealing package where the due diligence has been done,” he said. “For the finished report, we will have done all the digging to understand what the issues are with the project and how to solve them. That’s all backed up by the data and cost estimates and, hopefully, support from the community as well.”

To gain that support, and to figure out what kind of building uses the town could support, the MPA held two days of meetings, talking with City officials, local groups and members of the public. The results, Kalanick said, are encouraging.

“In general, the response we got from the public was positive,” he said, adding the first round of public outreach garnered between 40 and 50 comments.

“In terms of things that were stated by the public, there were multiple types of housing that would be amenable to different people in the community,” Kalanick said. “There were also the suggestions of a restaurant use and of a tourism or interpretive use, so there were a handful of ideas thrown out by community members.”

Results from MPA’s consultants were encouraging, too, according to Kalanick.

“The structural engineer found that the building is very sound, and the solutions for bringing it back to use are feasible and not cost-prohibitive,” he said. “In particular, the foundation, other than in the collapsed area, is in good condition.”

Helena’s Mosaic Architecture was hired to write the final report, and Principal Ben Tintinger attended the week’s events. His takeaway was hopeful and helpful.

“I think with the community, there’s still a little skepticism there because obviously it’s had a little bit of bad history,” he said. “But I think overall, people are encouraged.”

That encouragement led people to express their opinions on the future of the Broadway Apartments, according to Tintinger, especially during Tuesday’s meetings.

“Each [group or person] had a chance to vote on what they felt the best use would be, and I think the overall consensus was it should be market-rate apartments or condos,” he said. “The other kind of consensus was a mixed use, where the first floor was non-residential.”

The amount of public comment makes Tintinger’s job writing the preliminary report easier.

“We’ll document all that input and have that as part of the document that says, ‘Based on community input, here’s where this building should be headed in terms of a use,’” he said.

Tuesday night’s closing meeting sported a few empty chairs, but Kalanick found the community’s conversation inspiring. Instead of comparing potential uses based on lowest cost, he heard the public evaluate options for the Broadway Apartments based on a broader scale.

“It was about ‘Can this project tie in with our development in town and be a catalyst for what Lewistown wants to become?” he said.

Kalanick is looking forward to the next round of public comment, and to the reactions the report’s first draft will garner.

“There will be at least two more chances in early April and mid-May for public input,” he said. “There’s a lot of positivity from the community, and there’s a lot of interest. I think if we keep moving forward and we keep getting things done, we’re moving towards success.”

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