Department of Administration Director John Lewis has selected the current Montana Historical Society (MHS) location of 6th Avenue and Roberts Street, the Veterans & Pioneers Memorial Building, to be the future home of the Montana Heritage Center.
Lewis made the announced Thursday and said in a statement: “I appreciate the efforts of the project committees and want to thank the members of the public who provided comments. There were many considerations, but the most responsible use of taxpayer dollars provided by the 2019 Legislature was to take advantage of existing state resources by [renovating] the current building and connecting it to a new facility on the Capitol Campus. There are many additional benefits to choosing the site located at 6th and Roberts.”
The committees overseeing plans to expand MHS had been looking at four other possible locations around Helena for the heritage center:
· At the site of the former Capital Hill Mall, between Prospect and 11th Avenues
· In Padbury Ranch, a proposed development on the east side of Interstate 15, near the South Hills interchange
· On Montana Department of Transportation property, at the corner of I-15 and Prospect Avenue, currently used for the state motor pool
· On Helena Regional Airport property, between Cromwell Dixon Lane and Skyway Drive, south of Costco
A report done by Cushing Terrill, formerly CTA Architects, indicated the 6th and Roberts location to be the best option.
The Department of Administration said if they were to vacate the Veterans & Pioneers Memorial Building and build a new Heritage Center building it would require an additional $30-42 million of legislative and/or private funding.
“From the public commentary we received during this process, we understand that there was great concern about the visibility, access, and parking of the new Heritage Center. As the site Evaluation Report found, the 6th and Roberts location will provide more parking than other options and allow for future expansion,” said Lewis.
During this year’s Montana legislative session, lawmakers approved additional funding for the expansion project. The current budget is about $52.7 million to build a new Heritage Center and possibly renovate the current Historical Society building. MHS has been planning the project for more than a decade, as a way to create more space for its collections of art and artifacts and provide better conditions for storing and caring for those items.
The building committee is now tasked with moving the project into the design phase and will have the first meeting January 2020.