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Northwestern Building

The old NorthWestern Energy building is pictured at 40 E. Broadway St.

Butte-Silver Bow is seeking formal proposals to buy and redevelop the sprawling, vacant NorthWestern Energy building it inherited in Uptown Butte, and it’s open to a wide range of possible buyers, uses and even prices.

“We want the highest and best use,” Community Development Director Karen Byrnes said Tuesday. “There is no set price. This is not looking for the most money necessarily.”

Butte-Silver Bow and NAI Business Properties, a Billings-based real estate firm the county hired to market the building, were to start publicizing a so-called “request for proposals” on Wednesday to local, state and national audiences. The firm has a great record in selling commercial properties, Byrnes says.

Interested parties have 90 days to submit proposals for utilizing the property in a way “that promotes economic and social vitality within Uptown Butte and the greater Butte area” and includes a “professional and thoughtful vision, strategy and plan” for using the building.

“We don’t have a preference on it being for retail, office space or multi-family or mixed-uses of all those,” Byrnes said. “That is not what we are worried about. We are worried about someone being able to get it done and make it a viable part of our community.”

Prospective buyers could be individuals or groups who show “strength in numbers,” Byrnes said.

NAI has a 15-page packet about the request for proposals and what types of uses could be contemplated for the building. It also includes detailed information on the building, its history and numerous pictures of its rooms and amenities.

The county inherited the 110,000-square foot office complex last September as part of a 2014 agreement with NorthWestern to keep its Montana headquarters in Butte. The company built a $25 million building at Park and Main streets, keeping more than 200 employees here.

In return, the county gave up land for the new building, is constructing a parking garage where some NorthWestern employees can park, and agreed to take ownership of the old building at 40 E. Broadway if the company couldn’t find new owners within 18 months.

NorthWestern hung onto it longer than 18 months, but early and repeated claims of optimism by the company and county officials that it would sell have not panned out. The complex is actually five buildings joined together over many years.”

Byrnes told commissioners in April that several people have shown interest in the complex, including some from Helena and Bozeman. She got the council’s permission that month to hire NAI, saying it had experience in marketing business properties nationally.

The county will list the proposal request through local media and NAI will utilize its website and other internet avenues, Byrnes said.

The request says the “seller prefers, but does not require, that a prospective buyer hire and utilize local labor and local professional services.”

Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Dave Palmer said this spring that the county has been paying to keep the lights and heat on in the complex so it can be shown on short notice. Those bills were $6,000 to $7,000 per month this past winter, he said, suggesting the county would not continue down that path for another full year.

The proposals will be evaluated by a seven-member committee led by Byrnes. Others on the committee might include members of the Urban and Revitalization Agency Board and commissioners.

Byrnes said the county would look favorably on proposals that could succeed at 40 E. Broadway over the long-term.

“We would definitely be working with whoever we decide has the best proposal,” she said. “It might take them a few years to realize their goals, but as long as they are working toward those goals, that is what is most important.”

Prospective buyers can access the request-for-proposal and associated reports via the county’s website at www.bsb.mt.gov or the following two websites:

http://naibusinessproperties.com/properties and search for Butte, MT properties

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Government and politics reporter

Reporter with emphasis on government and politics.

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