KALISPELL - Downtown redevelopment has become a key issue for Kalispell city leaders as they look to transform from an industrially-oriented center into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly core.
On Tuesday, city leaders and stakeholders had the opportunity gain wisdom from the head of redevelopment of the Lower Downtown area of Denver through the ‘90s and ‘00s which is considered to be one of the most successful urban renewal examples in the western US.
Within the next year-and-a-half downtown Kalispell is on track to see the removal of its train tracks, creating opportunities for retail, residential and commercial investment.
"For the railroad tracks to come out, the vision for the city is to create that walking trail through that three-mile section of downtown Kalispell," said Joe Unterreiner, President of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce. "It's a tremendous urban amenity that will be attractive for merchants, restaurants and so on to front in front of that walking trail but its also going to be a tremendous interest to residential developers."
Looking for direction city leaders along with private and public stake holders such as downtown property owners met with the head of the redevelopment authority in Denver.
"Denver undertook a revitalization of their downtown more than 30 years ago and we've been relatively successful," said Tracy Huggins, Executive director of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority.
Huggins led a small-group discussion and about the challenges, successes, and steps a community can take to promote growth.
"One of the things that I think is really key is a strong commitment on the part of the public sector to really define what a plan what a vision for Kalispell's downtown can and really should be," Huggins said. "But they can't do that alone. They really need to engage with the private sector whether that is the property owners the business owners, the chamber."
"It is a long process. It happens in steps but I think it's important to keep moving forward and support that progress and we're going to do our best to be part of that," Unterreiner said.
The old train tracks are expected to be removed and replaced with the pedestrian trail by 2019.