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First design meeting held for Montana Heritage Center, construction to begin as early as summer

Posted at 8:33 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 13:00:23-05

The Montana Heritage Center committee held their first design meeting on Wednesday at the Montana Historical Society (MHS) to begin conceptual planning with the design team.

At the meeting, Department of Administration (DOA) Director John Lewis tasked the committee with designing a modern building that not only meets the needs of MHS, but also the public.

“We are accountable to the citizens of Montana, and we need to make sure we’re listening to them as we develop for the time,” said Lewis. “I want you to think critically and creatively about how we can ensure visiting the Heritage Center is effortless, as well as an educational and uplifting experience.”

Last month Lewis selected the current location of MHS on 6th Avenue and Roberts Street, the Veterans & Pioneers Memorial Building, to be the future home of the Montana Heritage Center. Lewis said his office thoroughly examined all possible options presented, but ultimately the most responsible use of taxpayer dollars was to take advantage of existing state resources.

This first design meeting was mainly conceptual in nature, with the committee exploring several options and discussing the access, visibility and parking opportunities and concerns with each.

The committee agreed to exploring an option for creating an addition to the current building on ground level that would extend across 6th avenue.

Russ Katherman, chair of the Building Committee and administrator of the DOA Architecture and Engineering Division, said they’ll contact the City of Helena about the proposal to determine their options.

“We’d like to join in conversations with the City and see what their thoughts are on getting an above ground connection,” said Katherman. “We want to turn over every stone and see if that can work for the City as well as the Heritage Center and State Campus as a whole.”

The committee also approved exploring the option of hiring a construction manager/general contractor for the project rather than going by lowest bid.

“A general contractor would be beneficial to bring their expertise on board while we’re designing,” explained Katherman. “There’s great economies that can be found because the contractor can bring their expertise in to talk constructability, different materials and how we might do things on site. It’s a huge advantage.”

Katherman told MTN there are still a lot of work before a final design is selected, but work is already being done to prepare for construction.

Temporary parking designs are already being drawn up for once construction begins, and crews were conducting a 3-D scan of the MHS building on Wednesday.

Katherman said the hope is for preliminary construction on the site to begin as early as this summer.

“We’re pursuing everything that we can to get some things done on the site because Montanans have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Katherman. “They deserve a new heritage center and the Architecture/Engineering office wants to make that happen just as quickly as possible.”

More information about the Montana Heritage Center, including the latest updates, can be found here.