Planning board approves rezone for Milwaukee Station
The city planning board unanimously voted during their May 12 meeting to recommend that the City Commission approved a zone change for the proposed residential and commercial development behind Milwaukee Station.
The development group, which owns the Milwaukee Station property and the 1.3 neighboring acres to the northeast of the historic building, is requesting that both properties be rezoned from M-2 mixed use transitional to C-4 central business core.
Next, developers and the city will continue discussions regarding possible access and utilities easements through city parks and eventually, those easements and the zone change will go to the City Commission for consideration.
The easements are a separate action from the zone change and were not considered during Tuesday’s planning board meeting.
For background on the proposed development, read our two previous stories:
Architect Tim Peterson of LPW said the main level to the elevator tower of the proposed apartment building is 77 feet, the parapet is 67 feet from where the ground touches the main level. The existing station tower is 135 feet, he said.
Brion Lindseth, one of the project principals, said that they anticipate being responsible for the maintenance of any improvements within the easements on city property.
Under the C-4 zoning, the project wouldn’t have minimum parking requirements under the code, but Lindseth said they are intending to meet the parking requirements of the existing zoning and are proposing that the first level of the structure would be covered parking.
George Willett, who lives in Neihart but has a home in Great Falls as well, said he’s been looking for a place to live in downtown and said, “I think a project like this is just a great, great idea.”
Brett Doney of the Great Falls Development Authority said they support the project and believe it accomplishes a number of goals for downtown and the river corridor.
Doney said the project will drive further development and connect downtown to the river corridor.
“We think this will go a long way to drawing people in both directions,” Doney said.
A representative for Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company, which owns an adjacent property, sent an email expressing concern about an easement they thought they had on city property between their building and the railroad tracks.
That’s an area Big Sky Select was looking at for possible parking and staff would verify any existing easements in considering options for the Milwaukee Station project.
Pete Fontana, planning board chair, said he thought it’s a good use of a property that otherwise wouldn’t have much utility.
Dave Bertelsen, planning board member, applauded the developers and said the proposal is a “bold step for downtown Great Falls.”
The board also unanimously to recommend that City Commissioners approve an ordinance that would amend city code to account for the commission’s action in March that dissolved the Design Review Board.