HELENA — The $6.5 million redevelopment of a prominent downtown Helena building is moving forward, after securing financing last week.
317 Cruse Partners purchased the former Helena Independent Record building last year, with plans to turn it into a mixed office and retail space called “The Independent.” On Thursday, the Missoula nonprofit lender MoFi announced that it was providing funding for the project through the federal New Markets Tax Credit program.
Dave Glaser, MoFi’s president, said the project was a clear example of their goal to revitalize downtown areas.
“By bringing the project, the building back to life and bringing new businesses to the area, it’ll have a ripple effect on that end of downtown Helena,” he said.
MoFi receives tax credits from the federal government, sells them to banks, and then uses the cash they receive to fund development that wouldn’t be able to move forward otherwise. In this case, Valley Bank of Helena purchased the credits and will provide debt financing.
Glaser said the tax credit equity generally covers about 15% to 20% of the project costs. In this case, that will be just $1 million.
Once finished, the Independent will be anchored by the new Ascension Brewery, operated by Julius Lehrkind Brewing of Bozeman, with a taproom and rooftop deck. It will also house offices for Mosaic Architecture, co-working space operated by The Sidecar, and other restaurant and retail space.
Interior demolition work has already started on the building. Ben Tintinger, a principal with Mosaic Architecture and representative of 317 Cruse Partners, told MTN he was optimistic the brewery could open by July 1, though there is still some uncertainty about that. He said Mosaic could move into its new offices by the fall.
“We’re just excited to get in there and get this building revived and contributing to downtown,” he said.
Glaser said this is an example of how the New Markets Tax Credit can work to jumpstart activity in local communities. MoFi has also used NMTC funding for a number of other projects in Helena, including the redevelopment of the Helena Armory and the Old State Warehouse in the last few years.
“Now when you walk around downtown Helena, it feels like a community that’s on the move,” Glaser said. “You can really pin that right back to New Markets Tax Credits and the magnet that it has created of pulling investment into the downtown area.”
Glaser thanked Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester for their support of the program.