HELENA – Helena’s Capital Hill Mall was quiet Wednesday, but heavy equipment will soon be on the move, as the mall building is set for demolition.
“It’s exciting for us to to be able to move forward with the project,” said Mark Esponda of D&M Development, the company planning to redevelop the property. “I think it’s also exciting for the community to see the progress, and it’ll be good to see what comes of the site.”
Esponda and Helena developer Dick Anderson lead D&M Development. Anderson purchased one-half interest in the 13-acre mall property last year from Kimball Investment Company, based in Utah.
The mall, built in the 1960s, has been mostly empty for years. J.C. Penney, the last remaining retail store, closed its doors in 2017.
D&M initially planned to tear the building down last fall, but postponed the demolition until the lease expired for its last remaining business, Lucky Lil’s Casino. The casino closed several weeks ago.
Esponda said it will take at least a month to bring the entire building down and clear the site.
“We might have to use some extra time to haul off the debris, but for the most part, the building will be clear by about the beginning of April,” he said.
He estimated about 70 or 80 percent of the debris will be recycled. The steel will be taken to metal recycling businesses, while much the concrete and other materials will be used as fill for other construction. The remaining 20 to 30 percent of the debris will go to the landfill.
Once the mall is demolished, D&M’s next step will be to put together a site plan.
“We’ve thought about apartment buildings, potentially a hotel, and then various commercial mixed-use buildings throughout the property,” Esponda said.
They are still looking for possible tenants to fill the new buildings. Esponda said what they build on the property will depend on those tenants’ needs. He said they could fit up to eight or ten individual buildings.
“I think you’ll be surprised how big the site is once the building’s gone and you can see through to the Valley,” he said.
Esponda said he’s hopeful that this project can be just the beginning for the area around the mall.
“This redevelopment, I think, will hopefully help spur some more development in this area and revitalize this main corridor coming into Helena,” he said.
Once demolition begins, drivers will no longer be able to cross the mall property at Oakes Street. Esponda said the section of Oakes between Prospect and 11th Avenues is part of the property, and no longer publicly maintained. It will be fenced off once the work starts.
-Jonathon Ambarian reporting for MTN News