Loading Dock renovation leads depot-area growth

'Depot Row'

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Construction workers work on The Loading Dock renovation project on the corner of Center Street and First Avenue East. The historic building is being renovated for new businesses, including Brannigan's Pub and Brix Bottleshop.

What once was old is becoming something new. And excitement is building in Kalispell as The Loading Dock nears the end of a major renovation that began months ago.

The historic building sits along the railroad tracks and across the street from Depot Park, at the corner of East Center and First Avenue East.

At least two new businesses — an Irish pub and a specialty wine and beer shop — are aiming to open in the building as soon as November.

And with the Depot Place senior apartments being built practically right next door, some people see a bright future for the area as a stretch of empty buildings and derelict lots transform into a bustling “Depot Row.”

The 22,000-square-foot Loading Dock dates back to the early 1900s and grew up with the railroad in Kalispell.

The building has languished for the last few years after it was repossessed by a bank. But it was bought by Jay Gentry, who also owns the Montana Building in downtown Kalispell, and is being fixed up by Swank Enterprises.

The Loading Dock is getting a new elevator to serve the basement and first and second floors, all of which are being renovated and will be offered for lease.

A new addition sits out back. And with its own 75-space parking lot, parking spots along East Center Street are being torn out for new sidewalks, landscaping and a courtyard.

“The building didn’t have adequate electric or heating or cooling. We had to bring new water service in. It just needed a lot of stuff,” Dewey Swank said of the ongoing renovation.

Swank should know what the building needs. He’s one of the people who will be immediately leasing space. He and Karla Levengood, owner of Scotty’s Bar, will be opening Brannigan’s Pub, a new hangout and eatery specializing in Irish food and drink.

The wood plank deck out front will be fitted with some tables and chairs, and there’s already some talk about trying to open a rooftop dining area and a cigar bar as the project matures.

“We’re trying to bring some fun kind of stuff downtown, and some new life into an old building,” Swank said.

Karen Sanderson said she’s eagerly awaiting the completion of a 1,600-square-foot space where she will open Brix Bottleshop, a retail outlet selling specialty wines and beers and gourmet cheeses, crackers and pastas.

Born and raised in Kalispell and a graduate of Flathead High School, Sanderson moved back to Kalispell several years ago after spending nearly 15 years in Portland.

Brix Bottleshop will be Sanderson’s first small business, but she’s no stranger to wine or beer. She caught the wine bug in Portland, where she helped open the city’s first urban winery. She went on to work for several family-owned vineyards in Oregon.

“It’s exciting, with the renovation of The Loading Dock,” Sanderson said. “I’ve heard someone refer to it as ‘Depot Row’ with all the new businesses going in. I think that’s pretty cool to be part of.”

MEANWHILE, Linda McMannamy said Off Center Salon, the only existing business in The Loading Dock, is excited about the future and doing what it can to make it through a crazy time. “Our main problem is nobody thinks we’re open,” McMannamy said of the salon she owns and operates with Valli Weaver.

But despite all of the construction going on around the building, Off Center Salon remains open and has added several new chairs and stylists. It was bustling last Thursday.

McMannamy is glad to see a renovation of The Loading Dock and new businesses coming in, as well as construction of the Depot Place apartments next door.

“It’ll be nice to have some neighbors,” she said of the area.

“We look forward to seeing some new faces. It’s so nice to see businesses going in on this street instead of empty buildings and derelict lots. A real energy comes with that and I’m sure it’ll catch. This is real exciting to have it come back to life.”

Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at tlotshaw@dailyinterlake.com.

 

Excavators tear up the parking lot of The Loading Dock on Wednesday afternoon to make way for new sidewalks, landscaping and a courtyard.

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