The new Montana Heritage Center will be located at the Capitol Complex on existing state-owned property.
“Montanans deserve a space that thoroughly exhibits our rich history and affords future generations the opportunity to learn what makes our state such a unique, captivating and celebrated place,” Governor Bullock said. “I appreciate the hard work and public input that went into selecting the location and I couldn’t be more pleased that we are closer than ever to a Heritage Center worthy of our heritage.”
The 6th and Robert site was selected based on a comprehensive report prepared by Cushing Terrill (CT), formerly CTA Architects. The Building Committee submitted a report to Director Lewis in late November summarizing their analysis for the most suitable location.
“I appreciate the efforts of the project committees and want to thank the members of the public who provided comments. There were many considerations, but the most responsible use of taxpayer dollars provided by the 2019 Legislature was to take advantage of existing state resources by renovation the current building and connecting it to a new facility on the Capitol Campus.” said Director Lewis. “There are many additional benefits to choosing the site located at 6th and Roberts,” added Lewis.
Five potential sites were narrowed down from 22 original locations based on criteria developed by CT and the Steering and Building project committees.
The final site selection choices included: the legislature’s previously designated location at 6th and Roberts, the former mall site, Padbury Ranch, current state-owned land near the Montana Department of Transportation, and available airport property.
Additional site selection criteria considerations for the location decision included:
• Being responsible Stewards of Taxpayer Investment
• Advancing the Capitol Complex Master Plan
• Meeting the MHS Mission
During the evaluation process, two options emerged for selecting any location other than the 6th Avenue and Roberts Street site:
1. Vacate the Veterans & Pioneers Memorial Building and build a new Heritage Center building - that meets the space needs of the project - to house the Montana Historical Society (MHS) at a new location. This option would require an additional $30-42 million of legislative and/or private funding.
2. Split the Heritage Center into two locations. MHS would continue to operate out of the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building, while a new Heritage Center would function in a new building. This would require purchasing new land, increase operational costs, and adversely impact MHS’ mission and function.
Selecting any off-campus locations would have significant additional costs. Director Lewis is taking advantage of existing state resources by renovating the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building and connecting it to a new facility at the state-owned 6th & Roberts site.
Locating the new Heritage Center on the Capitol Complex aligns it with the vision set forth in the Capitol Complex Master Plan. This plan includes increased parking, improved walkability, and more green space. Placing the new Heritage Center here will make it easier for visitors to experience both Montana’s Museum and the Capitol together. In addition, legislators, educators/students, and the general public will be able to better utilize the space for meetings, trainings, and other gatherings. As the site Evaluation Report found, the 6th and Roberts location will provide more parking than other options and allow for future expansion.
“From the public commentary we received during this process, we understand that there was great concern about the visibility, access, and parking of the new Heritage Center.
As the site Evaluation Report found, the 6th and Roberts location will provide more parking than other options and allow for future expansion,” said Lewis.
The Historical Society’s mission to promote understanding and appreciation of Montana’s cultural heritage is best fulfilled by working alongside the Heritage Center. The archives and artifacts housed within MHS must be continually referenced by the Heritage Center staff. A split campus also means that invaluable artifacts would need to be transported between two locations, increasing the risk of damage and destruction. Furthermore, the Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building was intended to house MHS and serve as a “perpetual memorial” to Montana’s history. Moving the Society away from this building would violate 22-3-302, MCA and require a change in statute.
Three public meetings were held October 11, November 1, and November 20, 2019 to ensure the process was thorough, transparent, and included the opportunity for public input. Additionally, the Department created the website heritagecenter.mt.gov to inform stakeholders of the process and to allow for submission of public comment.
The building committee is now tasked with moving the project into the design phase and will have the first meeting January 2020.
Director Lewis will consider input from all parties as the design process moves forward. The design phase is expected to last 12-18 months and is comprised of a detailed analysis for the Heritage Center needs for the space, creating requirements and finalizing building plans.
The committees will continue to report to Director Lewis throughout the Heritage Center project.
Information and updates, including upcoming meetings, will be posted online throughout the project at heritagecenter.mt.gov. The website includes information broken out under four major categories, “Select, Design, Build, and Explore.”