Milwaukee Station project zone change goes to City Commission Aug. 18

The mixed use development planned for Milwaukee Station, which has been dubbed the Station District, with The Station and the Lofts at The Station, is being considered for a zone change during the Aug. 18 City Commission meeting.

The proposal includes 110-unit market rate apartment complex with a two-story, 10,000 square foot area of commercial space that will be lightly attached to the existing Milwaukee Station Depot building located at 101 River Drive N.

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The development group, Big Sky Select Properties, which owns the 3.385 acre 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.

Earlier in August, City Commissioners approved a tax abatement for the project.

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The commercial space will potentially include a dining area with several restaurants and a wine bar, as well as a potential fitness gym.

The commercial spaces would be open to the public, not just apartment residents, according to the developer.

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The depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a site rated as “Primary” within the city’s Railroad National Register District.

But based on the plans for the building and historic preservation rules, the developer said they aren’t required to conform to the standards and guidelines set forth by the Department of the Interior in regard to additions to properties that are on the National Register.

Brion Lindseth, one of the developers, said that they are being sensitive to those historic details and have been in touch with the Montana State Historic Preservation Office and also presented to the Cascade County City-County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission.

The zone change will allow the project to be taller, as the current zoning only allows 65 feet and the requested zoning would allow up to 100 feet. The proposed height is 77 feet, according to the staff report.

The zoning change would also modify parking and landscaping requirements.

Currently, the only access both properties proposed for rezoning is the existing entrance and exit to the Milwaukee Station Depot. This entrance is very close to the intersection of River Drive and 1st Avenue North.

River Drive is also an Montana Department Transportation owned and maintained roadway.

The applicant and city staff have been involved in discussions with MDT regarding the need for a second access to the properties being developed in order to alleviate high traffic concerns at the existing entrance/exit. In order to incorporate a second access point as a required element of the project, the applicant has had several discussions with planning staff, Park and Recreation staff, and legal staff about using a portion of Sight and Sound Park, which is owned by the city, according to city staff.

In this instance, the applicant is required to obtain an easement through the park property. This access easement will be 30-feet in width and will allow the developer to construct and maintain a two-lane private drive connecting the project site to River Drive, according to the city staff report.

MDT has taken a preliminary look at the effect of the development on River Drive and suggested eliminating the existing approach into the development, or modification into a right-out driveway. The intersection is viewed as a current safety concern and would not be expected to provide the only safe access to the larger development, according to the staff report. During its preliminary review, MDT concurred with City staff and stated that an additional approach further north (the access through Sight and Sound Park) is necessary to accommodate the development, according to the staff report.