The Montana West Economic Development Foundation will receive a $500,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revitalize three Montana communities by developing cleanup and reuse plans, completing environmental site assessments and conducting community engagement activities.
The EPA grant will focus on nearly two dozen properties in Flathead County.
“As a third-generation farmer, I understand the challenges rural America is facing, including the lasting impacts of toxic waste,” said U.S. Senator Jon Tester.
“Cleaning up and revitalizing Montana’s remaining Brownfield sites breathes new life into our communities by creating some real opportunities for economic development. That’s why I am proud to have secured this funding in my Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for cleanup projects across Big Sky Country to spur economic growth and improve the quality of life for folks from Glendive to Kalispell,” he continued.
Priority sites include a 22-acre property used as an auto recycling and salvage yard, a dilapidated and vacant former Kmart building, a former elementary school and a former wood treatment and wood post manufacturing business.
“Montana West Economic Development has put together a comprehensive strategy to assess, clean up and restore contaminated properties throughout Flathead County,” said EPA Regional Administrator KC Becker.
“We look forward to seeing these projects bring new community assets and business opportunities to the residents of Columbia Falls, Evergreen, Kalispell and Whitefish,” she added.
EPA’s award to Montana West Economic Development is among six grants, totaling more than $5.7 million for cleanup and revitalization projects in communities across Montana.
These funds are part of President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda to expedite the assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites while advancing environmental justice through the Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (MARC) Grant programs. Thanks to the historic boost from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this funding is the largest ever awarded by the EPA’s Brownfields MARC Grant programs.
“The Flathead Valley has seen tremendous growth in recent years and these EPA Brownfields Assessment funds will help to facilitate redevelopment of blighted and underused areas, taking advantage of existing Infrastructure and preserving open space,” said Christy Cummings Dawson, President/CEO of Montana West Economic Development.
“This is a great tool for incentivizing redevelopment by taking some of the uncertainty and risk out of the process. We want to build upon the work of the Flathead County Economic Development Authority, the City of Kalispell and others that have done brownfields work locally to foster targeted redevelopment throughout Flathead County,” she explained.
Montana West Economic Development will use the EPA funds for projects at several properties as potential candidates for assessment, cleanup and redevelopment, including Wisher’s Wrecking Yard in Kalispell, the Evergreen Kmart, Larry’s Post & Pole, the Glacier Gateway School Buildings in Columbia Falls and the Soroptimist Building in Whitefish.
Reuse opportunities for these sites include transformation into affordable housing, which will substantially increase the inventory of apartments and homes for low- and moderate-income residents. These efforts will increase downtown populations and allow workers to live close to new businesses and restaurants.
Wisher’s Wrecking Yard in the south end of Kalispell is a 22.4-acre property currently used as an auto recycling and salvage yard. The property is surrounded by residential subdivisions and is an ideal location for new housing development following the evaluation of contamination concerns.
The Evergreen Kmart is located on Highway 2 on the south end of Evergreen within the 100-year floodplain.
The 8.5-acre property is covered in asphalt and includes a large 92,000 square-foot building with hazardous building materials that are delaying demolition and redevelopment. Once assessed and cleaned up, the site is a prime candidate for more than 40 multi-bedroom rental units for low-income families.
The Glacier Gateway School Buildings in Columbia Falls are vacant former elementary and junior high school buildings with potential reuse as more than 50 new senior housing units and community recreation areas.
The Soroptimist Building in downtown Whitefish is operating as a thrift store and has been slated for renovation into affordable housing units. Cleanup planning and assessment of the building is needed prior to redevelopment.
Larry’s Post and Pole in Columbia Falls is a 6.7-acre wood treatment and post manufacturing business. Further investigation of the property, including the presence of wood preservatives, pentachlorophenol and penetrating oil and diesel, is needed prior to sale and redevelopment as affordable housing.
The Whitefish Thrift Haus plans to relocate to another location while creating multi-family housing units in the former Soroptimist building for low- to moderate-income families.
Other recent brownfields grants announced in Montana include:
- Sweetgrass Development Corporation, north-central Montana: $1 million
- Great Falls Development Authority, Inc: $500,000
- Big Sky Economic Development: Billings, $1 million
- Great Northern Development Corporation: Glendive, $2,250,000
- Beartooth Resource Conservation and Development, Stillwater, Carbon and Big Horn Counties and the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Indian Reservations: $460,000
Photo courtesy of the City of Columbia Falls, Montana.