Since I was elected to the Great Falls City Commission I’ve been hearing a lot of questions and concerns about the Rocky Mountain Building on Central Avenue in Great Falls. The building was gutted in a fire about 11 years ago and has come to being regularly and derisively referred to as the Downtown Pigeon Poop Factory, the Pigeon Rookery and several other even less complimentary names.
Here’s the most recent comment I heard in a conversation with a local downtown business owner: “…no other city would allow such a blighted, mold invested building to continue to mar their downtown area.”
I agree that it is an impediment to downtown development and community aesthetics as well as being a potential health hazard and a magnet for crime and indigence. So, for the citizens who have been wondering about it I’ve been making inquiries and putting together information that I hope will be useful in continuing a productive community conversation about the Rocky Mountain Building.
- Several groups, including NeighborWorks of Great Falls, the City County Health Department, and a private investment group have all at one time or another announced plans to purchase and renovate the building, none of which have panned out.
- The latest such group is Alluvian Health and according to City Planning and Community Development the current status is that Alluvian’s plans to renovate the building are on hold and we don’t know just how long a delay they are expecting or if they have abandoned the project altogether.
- As to the nuisance, blight and public health aspects of the abandoned building, to date nobody has been willing to file a formal complaint.
After an email exchange with City management, here is what I have come to understand as to what would happen if the City was to embark on a code enforcement case.
As always, PC&D will work with the owner/tenant of the property and give them the opportunity to resolve the nuisance on their own willingly. If that doesn’t work, either because they refuse to comply or lack resources to resolve the situation on their own, there’s a choice of two directions to take the case:
First is take them to municipal court through that legal process. The judge has some options to levy fines per City code in an attempt to gain compliance. That may or may not work.
The other avenue is to initiate the abatement process through the City Commission. The case can be brought to the Commission to order the nuisance abated. Again, if the owner refuses to comply or cannot comply due to lack of resources, the City then is compelled to step in and do the abatement itself (paying the bill), effectively cleaning up the property and attaching a lien to the property.
That second approach has not been taken to this point. Around 10 years ago the City received an estimate that it would cost around $300,000 dollars to demolish the building. That figure would likely be much higher today.
The City’s Hazard Removal Fund balance is somewhere less than $50,000, so the bill would have to be paid out of general fund dollars or possibly the Tax Increment Finance District balance.
There is no doubt that the blight removal is eligible to be paid by TIF but until very recently, there wasn’t anywhere near the kind of money necessary in the TIF to pay the bill. Also the Civic Center facade is competing for some of this same money. It’s likely the City could swing both after completion of the bond sale process and current balances and obligations are fully understood but it will take a little while to get there.
Please let me know what you think. Email me your thoughts and concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org