County plans to demolish a long-vacant crumbling building in Uptown Butte expanded to include two adjacent buildings on East Park Street that served as the Butte-Rescue Mission’s thrift store.
It will increase the tab for taxpayers, at least in the short term, but county officials say it’s the safe and logical way to go.
Butte-Silver Bow officials say it would have cost up to $150,000 just to stabilize a shared wall between the now county-owned vacant building at 135 E. Park Street and the thrift store so that demolition of the vacant structure can continue.
But a structural engineer also inspected the thrift store buildings and determined they were also unstable and unsafe, and the necessary repairs would cost well over $200,000.
Under a new plan, the county would pay the mission $38,572 for the thrift store property and up to $12,000 in relocation costs, then demolish the three buildings. The tab for demolition has not been fixed, but it will likely cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
People also read…
The county’s Urban Revitalization Agency agreed on Tuesday to provide the payments to the Mission, but the overall plan – including expanded demolition – must also obtain approval from the Board of Commissioners. The board is expected to consider it next week.
Both thrift stores were built before 1911 and have been owned by the Mission for 20 years. The building at 135 E. Park was privately owned, but the county deemed it unsafe and acquired it from a settlement in 2020 so it could be demolished.
JP Gallagher, general manager of Butte-Silver Bow, said the mission had not overlooked thrift store buildings, but others had in previous years. There are many other buildings in Uptown Butte that “end up in the government’s lap” due to neglect, he said.
“We become the villain because we have to do something about it,” he said. “It makes things difficult. No one in government wants to lose any more downtown historic buildings. We want to keep them if possible, but that does not mean at all costs because sometimes they are not recoverable.
URA board members said the nonprofit mission provides needed services to the homeless and hungry and does a great job. That and safety and cost factors justified buying the property, they said.
“I think it has to happen, but I don’t want to see it as a precedent for this council,” said longtime member Bob Worley.
The Mission was in a tough spot, Gallagher said, as they were “trying to keep the doors open at the homeless shelter” on Platinum Street. The new plan, he said, was “the right thing for the community.”
The URA oversees the Uptown Tax Increase District of Butte. It captures property taxes from new developments in the district and the council reinvests the revenue into the same area, but the money still comes from property taxpayers.
Mission officials said they are grateful for the county’s support in the dilemma and are suspending thrift store operations for now. They are researching alternate locations but said nothing has been decided on a future thrift store.
The store provides some financial support to overall mission operations but is not a huge source of revenue, mission officials said. But it also serves other purposes, including sales training for those trying to overcome homelessness.
“We will continue to provide food, shelter and cold weather clothing, including blankets, to anyone in need on our Platinum Street campus,” said Mission Executive Director Brayton Erickson. “The way we receive donations may change, but our mission will remain the same as we care for this community.”
Silver Bow Properties owned the building at 135 E. Park Street before the county deemed it unsafe several years ago. The roof and the second floor had among other things collapsed.
After more than 18 months, the county reached a settlement agreement with Silver Bow Properties in the fall of 2020. As part of the agreement, Silver Bow Properties relinquished ownership of the building to the county and agreed to pay $25,000 $ for demolition costs.
Costs could range from $50,000 to $60,000, but county officials said without the settlement, the case could drag on for months longer and a dangerous building would still be standing. Gallagher said Tuesday that Silver Bow Properties paid the $25,000.
Preparatory work for demolition began in February 2021 and provided a closer look at a wall merged or meshed with one of the thrift store buildings. Further analysis was needed, so the demolition was halted.
Structural engineers at Stahly Engineering ultimately determined that the buildings shared a wall and that it would cost $150,000 to stabilize it so that the demolition of 135 E. Park could proceed. To determine if this made sense, the engineers did an analysis of the thrift store buildings.
This, according to a summary given to URA board members, showed the buildings were “unstable and in need of major structural repairs” that would be well over $200,000.
The county worked with the mission, including Erickson and mission board president Bill McGladdery, on how to proceed.
“When they first came back and said, ‘Well, it’s going to cost $150,000 to build that wall,’ we just sat there and said, ‘You know, as taxpayers and as As individuals, we have a hard time seeing the county spending these types of funds,” McGladdery told URA board members Tuesday.
The bottom line, officials said, is that shoring up the wall would not solve the thrift buildings’ serious structural problems.
URA Board Chairman Dale Mahugh said Butte-Silver Bow and Uptown Butte could ultimately benefit from the plan if the county finds new uses or new developers for the site.
“It’s a desirable area and a situation where there’s probably much higher and better use in the future with new construction, but at the same time Butte-Silver Bow can actually monitor and control what the face will look like. of this new building. so it’s a good fit,” he said.
The URA spends a lot of its money on building restoration projects, but board member Bob Brown says that’s a justified exception. This is partly due to the excellent work done by the Mission, he said.
“You deserve a lot of praise for what you’ve done,” he said. “There’s no joy in that, but I think it’s the wisest course.”