Milwaukee Station zone change approved

The zone change for the Milwaukee Station project has been approved 3-1. The project has been dubbed The Station and the Lofts at The Station.

Commissioner Tracy Houck left the meeting before the vote and Commissioner Mary Moe was opposed.

The zone change allows a greater building height and also reduces some parking and landscaping requirements.

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Before construction can start, the developer, Big Sky Select Properties, must finalize access, utilities and landscape easements.

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Draft easements have been created and the developers are working with the city and Montana Department of Transportation to create a new access point further from the intersection of River Drive and 1st Avenue North. They’re also working the the city Park and Recreation Department since the easements would go through portions of Sight and Sound Park, a city owned property.

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Moe had concerns about parking, traffic and historic preservation for the project.

The site plan includes surface parking, as well as about 40 spaces in a garage on the lowest level of the new apartment building that will have 112-units.

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Spencer Woith, an engineer on the project, said that there will be 213 regular parking spaces and the development team used a similar matrix to what was used at West Bank Landing to take into account that different uses in the building would need parking at different times.

“If we don’t provide enough parking to start with, we’re already starting off on the wrong foot,” Woith said.

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Moe asked if the developer would commit to historic preservation guidelines. Brion Lindseth, one of the partners of Big Sky Select Properties, said that they aren’t required to meet those guidelines, but met with the Cascade County City-County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission and took their recommendations into the updated design.

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The plan doesn’t include altering the existing Milwaukee Station, but will connect to the new apartment complex with an atrium that will have commercial space and tie into the existing building style.

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Commissioner Rick Tryon asked about the market research conducted for the project since there are many vacant properties in the city.

“We wouldn’t be investing significantly in this project if we didn’t believe the community would support it,” Lindseth said.

Brett Doney of the Great Falls Development Authority and Shane Etzweiler of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce both spoke in support of the project and said that it fills a need for housing, which is regularly mentioned as a need by Air Force officials and other employers.

No members of the public spoke in opposition of the zone change.