Bid approved to begin work for Depot Park master plan

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A contract to begin Phase 1 of the Depot Park master plan has been approved. The bid includes demolishing the building in the park.

City Council last month approved a project bid with Cutting Edge Excavation of Columbia Falls in the amount $279,972. The city previously allocated $500,000 in tax increment finance funds for the project.

In addition to demolishing the building in Depot Park, Phase 1 of the master plan includes installation of temporary power for the event season, storm inlet installation, tree stump removal, parking lot and shed removal, sidewalk repair, and turf restoration.

The demolition of the building came in at $35,000. The city previously had an individual who offered to donate $20,000 toward the cost of demolition of the building.

“I’m more pleased than anyone can stand at the $35,000,” Councilor Frank Sweeney said.

The city purchased Depot Park in 2009 and created a master plan for the design and development of the park to meet the current and future needs of the community in regard to downtown open space. The city’s Planning Department and Parks and Recreation Department was housed in the building in Depot Park until last year when the two city departments moved into the new City Hall.

City Council approved a master plan in 2012 for the park and approved an update of that plan last year. The plan calls for a few changes for the park including removal of the building, and removal of the pond and construction of a gazebo, which have both already been completed. Hazardous trees were also removed from the park.

Future changes include the reconstruction of all of Spokane Avenue, from Railway to Depot streets, adding angled parking on Railway Street and adding a bicycle and pedestrian path along the north side of the O’Shaughnessy Center with a mid-block crossing on Central Avenue.

On Railway Street, the plan calls for changing the parking to angled rather than the current parallel parking. This was changed to keep car doors from opening out onto the pedestrian walkway that runs along the south edge of the park.

Work set for the next few years is expected to include installing a tent area on the east edge of the park that includes permanent fixtures to place tent poles into, widening and changes to the sidewalks around the park, and widening of Central Avenue and Spokane Avenue streets on each side of the park.

City Council last month turned down a last-minute request by the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce to retain the building so the chamber could use it for a visitor’s center. In October 2016 Council also turned down a similar request from the chamber. North Valley Music School had hoped to purchase the building and move it to the city’s snow lot, but that never came to fruition.

Depot Park hosts roughly eight major events and many smaller events during the year.

The Depot Park master plan calls for projects estimated at about $1.8 million. The funds for the work will come from the city’s tax increment finance fund, and will have to be completed before the TIF district sunsets in 2020.

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