These are heady days in Kalispell.
Machinery is cranking away at several sites to build the final link of the U.S. 93 bypass on the west side of town and a new commercial center is being built on the north side of the city.
Now comes a crowning touch: Thanks to a $10 million federal grant, dreams of a downtown renaissance are about to become real.
With the $10 million plus another $11 million pledged from several sources, a huge change in the Kalispell landscape is about to unfold.
The initial steps will involve development of a new rail park east of Whitefish Stage Road at the former McElroy & Wilken gravel pit. That will pave the way for removal of the railroad tracks that bisect the city (and, according to planners, constrict growth and development).
Removing the rail line would clear the way for an east-west trail system and “green park” area at the city’s center and allow for more parking and sidewalks. And it would allow north-south street extensions, where they are needed, to complete streets that are currently blocked by the rail tracks.
The city’s revitalization plan calls for gradually redeveloping a swath of run-down, underutilized industrial land along the railroad tracks into a vibrant urban core that complements and builds upon the adjacent downtown. The railroad corridor is a key part of Kalispell that has long needed refurbishing, and now the recently announced federal grant will open the door for that major change in the city’s core.
There have been plenty of superlatives surrounding the grant and what it will mean for Kalispell, with the consensus that this may be as big a boost to progress as anything the city has seen in years, maybe since the railroad first laid tracks here!
As planners and organizers now begin to map out the exciting new prospects for Kalispell, we would like to congratulate all the public and private people who believed in the city’s future and worked so hard to make it a reality. In particular, the hard work and planning of Kim Morisaki and Katharine Thompson must be acknowledged, along with the persistence of Sen. Jon Tester, who was a longtime champion of the project with the Department of Transportation.