Butte’s new $6.8-million Ace Hardware location is beginning to take shape.
Construction has been underway since spring at the new location at 2607 Harrison Ave., just north of the Holiday Inn Express.
The skeletal outline of a building has emerged — a building boasting over 20,000 square feet of retail space, doubling the capacity of the hardware retailer’s current store at 1839 Harrison Ave.
In November, the project received $200,000 in Hard Rock economic development money from Butte-Silver Bow’s Council of Commissioners. At the time, the project was estimated to cost $5.9 million, but store co-owner Tom Shellenberg said Friday the price tag has gone up due to new land acquisitions at the site, which currently sits at around 4 acres.
Most recently, Missoula-based nonprofit MoFi, formerly known as the Montana & Idaho Community Development Corporation, helped secure financing from First Interstate Bank for the new Ace location through the federal New Market Tax Credit Program.
According to Dave Glaser, MoFi president, the federal program helps encourage and finance economic development projects in low-income communities. MoFi works with investors to turn the tax credits into cash and then uses that cash to fund businesses, nonprofits, and real estate developments.
Glaser said the new Ace location is MoFi’s first retail project in Butte.
Shellenberg and store co-owner Matt Dowdell — who together own Ace locations in Anaconda and Livingston — say when the new Ace is completed it will be the largest of their three stores.
The entire footprint of the new facility will be 24,800 square feet and will feature a parking lot to the east.
“We have way more (parking spots) than required,” said Shellenberg giving a tour of the 4-acre construction site Friday afternoon.
Shellenberg and Dowdell said Ace outgrew its current Butte location a number of years ago. But with the new facility, they’re hoping to give more choices to customers and more convenience.
So far, the biggest challenge in constructing the new facility has been the soil at the site, Shellenberg said, noting that during the earthwork process, crews had to contend with buried hunks of concrete, tree trunks, and other debris. Also buried below the surface was slag from a smelter site from Butte’s early days, the Bell Smelter, which had to be hauled away to a repository.
Shellenberg said about 80 percent of the earthwork has been finished, the foundation for the main building has been installed, and the building’s steel frame has been put in place. Soon on the horizon will be installing the building’s floors.
Shellenberg estimated that the new Ace will open the last half of January. But before that can happen, the store’s merchandise, fixtures, and offices have to be moved. The store will be closed for about two weeks during the transition, he said.
Manager Trevor Garrels, who’s done a similar move for Kmart, said relocating a major retail store involves lots of moving parts and pieces, but he feels up to the task and looks forward to the new location.
Doubling Ace’s size may seem like a gamble, especially with the addition of True Value hardware to Butte’s retail scene in 2016, but Shellenberg and Dowdell say they’re confident about the new location’s prospects for success.
“We think that the demand is there and we have the opportunity to provide people with more of the things that they need,” said Dowdell.