The Gateway Community Center could become a hub for community-minded organizations in Northwest Montana — but it still needs more tenants.
“I’m willing to talk to anybody,” said Kim Morisaki of Montana West Economic Development, and the Gateway’s interim property manager.
“This building needs to be full,” she added.
Longtime Flathead Valley residents of might recall the center as the location of the old Gateway West Mall. The 200,000-square foot building became the Gateway Community Center in 2009 and the Northwest Montana United Way acquired 100,000 square feet of the property in a 2015 auction.
The United Way is working in collaboration with Westside CCC, Inc., a holding company for the property. The United Way board remains the decision-making body for the Gateway.
Roxanna Parker, the new executive director for Northwest Montana United Way, also said she wants to see the Gateway full and said the United Way is considering all applicants that fall within their vision for the center.
Parker said she wants to see “agencies and organizations in here that are community-minded.” But she added that does not exclude for-profit businesses and organizations.
The building already hosts many community-minded organizations, including the Flathead Food Bank, Volunteers for America, CASA for Kids, Summit Independent Living Center and the Montana Conservation Corps. It is also home to the Kalispell Regional Healthcare billing department and for-profit business The Mail Room.
Morisaki is hopeful the Flathead County government might look to the Gateway as it searches for additional office space for its overflowing departments, but for now the county is currently looking to move into the old Century Link building closer to downtown.
Morisaki estimated the building was about 50% occupied, but said it “cannot continue to operate at 50% capacity.”
“My goal is to fill as many spaces as possible while I’m here,” Morisaki said, “and create a situation where we can hand it over to a property-management business.”
The property has a variety of different spaces ready for tenants, from large rooms to individual offices. There is also a space with an espresso bar ready to become a coffee shop and café and another equipped to become a pizza restaurant.
Morisaki said the Gateway will need more tenants for a coffee shop or restaurant to be viable, though these amenities would make the building more attractive.
“I’m actually thrilled with the building,” she said. “It’s beautiful on the inside … it’s been really well-remodeled.”
Parker said she wants the Gateway to become a space where organizations can meet and “better collaborate services to the entire community.” She also wants to see the building host more “community-type events.”
“We’re really interested in making sure Gateway is here for the community in the long-term,” Parker said. She said this was a “fantastic opportunity to make Gateway a model” for similar community centers across Montana.
According to Morisaki, she was making good progress on finding new tenants until the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We were kind of on a roll until about two weeks ago,” she said. But she is still optimistic about increasing the occupancy inside the Gateway in the near future.
“Not 100%, but higher than now,” Morisaki said.
The building opened as the Gateway West Shopping Center in 1973, and went through a major remodel in 1984. The retail site continued to operate even after the Kalispell Center Mall’s opening in 1986.
The mall was mostly vacant following the 2007 closure of Gateway Cinema, until a collective of nonprofits leased the space and established the Gateway Community Center in 2009.
Reporter Colin Gaiser may be reached at 758-4439 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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