Construction on the Glacier Rail Park is set to begin in spring 2016, the Flathead County Economic Development Authority said on Tuesday.
Before any crews break ground, the authority and the city of Kalispell will be assigned a Federal Rail Administration project manager. The official will help craft a complete management plan to meet all the requirements of a $10 million federal grant.
Developing that plan will require at least 12 weeks.
“Planning for implementation will require significant time in coming months,” Kalispell City Manager Doug Russell said. “While we’d love to break ground today, we know that this preparation is critical to ensuring the entire project is done right.”
This is the first step for the authority and the city after winning the grant in October to help pay for the incoming Glacier Rail Park on the east edge of Kalispell.
The rail park is a key piece of the Core and Rail Redevelopment project (formerly named the Kalispell Core Area/Glacier Rail Park redevelopment plan). The project will remove the rails running north of Center Street through Kalispell, opening development space in town while attracting new rail-served businesses to the rail park.
The initial construction phases at the rail park will involve extending city services such as water and sewer before leveling and grading the 40-acre property north of Flathead Drive and east of Whitefish Stage Road.
The Economic Development Authority expects businesses to begin establishing themselves in the rail park in 2017.
Kalispell CHS is the first business signed on to the new rail park. CHS will relocate its rail-receiving facility from the intersection of Center Street and Fifth Avenue West to new, larger grain elevators at the rail park.
Terms of the grant require the authority and the city to complete the project within five years, but both have expressed belief that the Core and Rail Redevelopment project will be completed by 2018.
The rail park, on the former McElroy & Wilken gravel pit site, is bordered by 60 acres zoned for heavy industrial use. The land holds the potential for future development.
“The rail provider, Burlington Northern, owns a majority of these 60 acres, which provides a great opportunity to grow as a demand for rail-served real estate increases,” said Kim Morisaki, spokeswoman for the Economic Development Authority.
Core Area redevelopment, slated for 2018, will replace the railroad tracks with a trail for walking and biking. The trail will serve as a linear park with green space, increasing walkability and boosting the opportunity for new investment in Kalispell, according to a news release from the Economic Development Authority.
Reporter Seaborn Larson may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.