Rezone, aggregation for Russell Museum future expansion gets initial OK from city
The city planning board unanimously voted to recommend that the City Commission approve requests from the C.M. Russell Museum and Trigg C.M. Russell Foundation to rezone and aggregate some parcels as they go through a master plan process and consider expansion.
The request to rezone properties and aggregate parcels on the north side of 5th Avenue North, across from the museum, will go to the commission for final consideration, along with the museum’s request to vacate 5th Avenue North between 12th and 13th Streets.
The museum is requesting to rezone those properties from residential and neighborhood commercial to match the museum’s zoning of PLI Public Lands and Institutional.
Museum officials visited the neighborhood council earlier this month and the council was supportive of the project.
Two residents asked questions about the museum’s long term plans during the Feb. 25 planning board meeting, but no one spoke in opposition to the requests.
The city received no written comment about the project at of Tuesday afternoon.
Thomas Figarelle, the museum’s executive director, said the first phase of their plan includes added parking lots and greenspace, as well as a preparatory studio at the property addressed as 1125 5th Ave. N. That studio would be built on a half lot already owned by the museum and the exterior would be made to match the residential character of the neighborhood, he said.
He’s optimistic that those parts of the plan can be completed this year or next, he said.
The longterm master plan is very much in the preliminary stages and Figarelle said staff hopes to present a plan to their board in June that if accepted would firm up their plans though any major expansion projects would be contingent on fundraising capabilities.
Their effort to plan for the future is really a manifestation of at least three decades of work by the museum, Figarelle said, when the museum and foundation started acquiring properties across the street in the 1990s. For years, the museum had owned all but one of the properties on the northside of 5th Street North between 12th and 13th Streets until last summer when a donation was made allowing the museum to acquire the last remaining property.
The homes were deemed unsalvagable and demolished in December.
In terms of event parking, greenspace, the sculpture garden and more, Figarelle said “we’ve really maxed out” the space we have.
The last update to the building was in the 1990s and Figarelle said rezoning and aggregating the properties would allow the museum to begin setting the stage for a possible major expansion of the museum itself to stay comparable with other worldclass art museums and continue showcasing the best of western art.
Figarelle said the museum would not hold more than one event monthly at max, to allay resident concerns over increased parking and activity in the neighborhood.
He said there was no intention to move the Russell auction to the museum grounds since even with the possible future expansion there simply wouldn’t be enough space for everything the event requires.
Several residents spoke in favor of the project.