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Rendering of Parking Structure

Pictured here is an artist’s concept of the new parking garage on Park Street in Uptown Butte. 

The multi-story parking garage Uptown would have open spaces and glass walls for staircases and elevators to enhance safety and make patrons comfortable, according to preliminary plans detailed Wednesday.

And although employees from NorthWestern Energy would be encouraged to use some of the 247 spaces, the county doesn’t want a lease agreement with it or other businesses because it would make public bonds to finance the garage more expensive.

“This needs to stay as public-access as possible,” Karen Byrnes, the county’s community development director, said at a public forum about tentative designs and plans for the garage. There will be more public meetings for suggested changes and considerations.

Two options seemingly no longer on the table, however, are not building the garage or putting it anywhere but the green space between Park and Galena streets.

Dan O’Neill, a Butte landscaper who attended the meeting, suggested a parking garage would be outdated in 20 years because cars would be electric, mining would be dead and there would be fewer major employers. He said the county should consider a central park and more green spaces instead.

“I think that ship has sailed,” Byrnes said.

Through numerous public meetings over the past two years, including many to update an urban renewal plan and tax-increment financing district, the desire for a parking garage and its planned location are established, she said.

“We are going to be looking at creating more green spaces, this just won’t be one of them,” she said.

The county has been working on plans with Billings-based Collaborative Design Architects and Carl Walker Inc., a North Carolina firm that does consulting and engineering work on parking garages.

Under preliminary plans, the garage would have four parking levels — five counting part of the top that would continue slanting upward, said Jeffery Kanning, an architect with Collaborative Design.

The top of the garage could hold large tents so special events could be held there as part of a strategy to make the garage an attractive place for people to gather. There would be an inset on the Park Street level for the bus stop that exists at the green space now.

Spaces between parking levels would be open, stairs and elevators at the east end of the structure would have outer glass walls, and inside columns and walls would be limited. Those features allow people to easily see out and in, and combined with bright indoor lighting, make it safer and its users more comfortable.

Byrnes said the garage would be completely automated and self-serve. Hourly or daily or monthly parking prices have not been determined, although Byrnes said no garage in Montana has monthly leases for less than $50. The county charges $30 per month to lease spaces in outdoor lots.

Byrnes said some cities, such as Helena, allow free parking at night in their garages and that might be considered here.

Among other features or things planned:

  • The garage would be built with red bricks and the façade, corners, awnings, signs and lighting would fit in with Uptown.
  • The open lot on Galena Street and its 32 spaces would be nixed to make way for the garage, but there would still be a net gain of about 210 spaces.
  • The garage would be adjacent to the Phoenix Building, but drivers could access that building’s current parking lot by entering the garage. The county is working on other accommodations with Phoenix Building owners.
  • Public restrooms would be located on the ground level.
  • Clearance would be high enough to allow most full-size pickups, although Kanning said a Ford F-350 with an extra-long bed might be “a little tough to get in.”

County officials and consultants planned interviews Wednesday with two construction firms — Dick Anderson and Sletten Inc. — interested in building the garage. The county is utilizing a state and locally authorized way of choosing builders that does not require the lowest bidder to get the contract.

The idea is to get builders involved in the project earlier, in part to avoid cost overruns.

Kanning said the process will allow Butte to have “a garage everyone was expecting at the price we were expecting.”

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Government and politics reporter

Reporter with emphasis on government and politics.

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