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Standing tall: New NorthWestern Energy building offers Uptown features, spectacular views

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When it’s all done in December, 110,000 bricks will have been laid, not all of them on the outside.

More than 40 miles of communication wires will weave their way from corner to corner, floor to floor.

There are facets to give it Uptown traits, from red bricks and copper panels to an indoor staircase with an outside fire-ladder feel.

But perhaps the coolest feature of NorthWestern Energy’s new Montana headquarters building is the fifth-floor, deck view of the Summit Valley and the snowcapped Highlands. Under a big, blue Montana sky, it takes your breath away.

The outside deck will have a natural gas grill and natural vegetation from the local area, including fescue grass, black-eyed suzies and low-growing succulents, and a break area just inside will have a natural-gas fireplace.

The top floor represents a contrast to NorthWestern’s current general office building at 40 E. Broadway St., says NorthWestern Chief Executive Officer Bob Rowe, “in that the very best place in the building is available to all employees.”

It has been less than a year since Rowe joined hundreds of others at Park and Main in Butte to break ground on the $25 million building. Its five stories and basement will cover about 100,000 square feet and be the new workplace for about 220 NorthWestern employees.

Most will move over from the current building in Butte, and that should happen in early to mid-December, said Danny Kaluza, NorthWestern’s director of support services.

If construction slowed down at all this past winter, he said, it wasn’t by much, and everything is on schedule for completion this December.

Kaluza took a Standard reporter and photographer on a tour of the unfinished building this week and noted that most of the outside work has been completed. They were still placing copper panels on parts of the south façade that will naturally patina into a complimentary green shade.

White, outside cornices should turn to gray, and a staircase on the southwest end will be all glass on the outside and red brick on the inside, giving it the feel of outside fire-escapes that still cling to some Uptown buildings.

“It’s not intended to be an old-looking building,” Kaluza said, but it is designed to fit in.

NorthWestern officials consulted with community leaders, local government officials, historic preservation groups and others to make sure of that.

“We aren’t trying to build a historic replica, which would have been inauthentic,” Rowe said. “We are trying to build a modern structure that is appropriate to and characteristic of one of Montana’s most historic neighborhoods.”

The first floor will include a main south entrance, a lobby and an educational space with information, photos and displays about the history of NorthWestern Energy as well as its South Dakota and Nebraska operations. At various times, there will be information about new technology such as Smart Grid and renewable generation.

The entrance is precisely at 11 E. Park St., hence the new building’s official address.

There will be an auditorium seating at least 280 people on the first floor for employee gatherings and public events, too.

The second, third and fourth floors share the same general layout, each with plenty of open space and south walls that are mostly glass.

“Our goal is to build space that encourages collaboration and are functional for employees, both those based in Butte but also for the many employees who come to Butte on a regular basis,” Rowe said.

There is plenty of glass on the west walls as well, offering views of Mount Fleecer and peaks in the Anaconda Range.

Those three floors will house departments such as financial reporting, accounts payable, accounting and human resources, with private offices and conference rooms located on the north sides.

The top floor includes private offices and a large conference room, with fir wood panels lining parts of the ceiling. The stairwell on the southwest side, a central feature in the new building, also is intended to promote interaction and encourage employees to use the stairs and get some exercise during the day.

The building will be heated and cooled with state-of-the-art technology and efficiency, Kaluza said, that will cut costs in half compared to the current building.

“Our goal was to build something that would be modest, efficient, highly functional and serve our needs and our customers’ needs for many decades to come,” Rowe said.


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