Artists, authors and other creative types might someday be among those using the former Montana Developmental Center campus — specifically, its historic and long-dormant former administration building.
Testing the building for the presence of contaminants, a first step in determining potential redevelopment costs, is expected to start as soon as next week.
Local economic development officials still await a determination by the State of Montana as to whether, when and how it can offload certain parcels of the former MDC site. Yet that hasn’t stopped them from drumming up ideas for and interest in potential uses for it.
Veterans services have dominated many of the conversations, but according to Tom Harrington, co-manager of the Jefferson Local Development Corporation, there has been “some interest” expressed by artisans looking for a place to temporarily stay while they work on projects.
“You don’t put all your eggs in one basket” for reutilization, Harrington said at the Aug. 28 meeting of the MDC Reutilization Committee at Boulder City Hall.
Harrington described the former administration building as “gorgeous” and having “a lot of history.”
According to an application for a grant to pay for the contaminant testing, the building is anticipated to be “redeveloped into commercial space on the ground floor with residential artisan studio apartments on the upper floors.”
In July the JLDC had Butte-based nonprofit developers Headwaters seek U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval for a brownfields assessment grant for the building. The grant is among a series administered by the EPA, which defines brownfields “as real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”
The application lists lead-based paint and asbestos as expected contaminants due to them being common “building materials used in construction over 100 years ago.”
If testing identifies the building as a brownfield site, the program’s other grants are available for cleanup and related activities.
According to the grant application, JLDC sought to complete testing “as soon as it can be accomplished” because “the property is being reviewed as a potential sale/transfer from the state agency to Jefferson County as a redevelopment project to help mitigate the closure of the [MDC].”
Approval was granted in August. The funding will come out of a $600,000 pool of money the EPA granted Headwaters earlier this year for use in a seven-county region of southwestern Montana. The firm’s Julie Jaksha said Monday that the project was first approved by a Headwaters board overseeing disbursement of the funds before the EPA’s approval was sought.
Jaksha said that “bids are being reviewed and we should have the contractor awarded by the end of the week.”
“Hopefully work will commence next week,” she said. “Phase l [testing] will happen first. Then we will move forward with phase ll if needed.”
According to an EPA document, phase I testing includes “a historical investigation and a preliminary site inspection,” and phase II testing provides “a more in-depth environmental site assessment including sampling activities to identify the types and concentrations of contaminants and the areas to be cleaned” and an “evaluation of cleanup options and/or cost estimates based on future uses and redevelopment plans.”
Jaksha said she hopes phase 1 testing will be completed within three weeks of awarding the contract.
The grant application states that the Renaissance Revival-style building was built in 1897-1898 according to plans drawn by John C. Paulsen, the Montana State Architect at the time, and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
Previous work was done on the building, which “has been vacant for many years,” to “remove the birds and seal the windows several years ago,” states the application.