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Helena City Commission to consider closing street for Heritage Center project

Posted at 9:02 PM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 00:23:15-04

HELENA — The Helena City Commission will move forward with considering the permanent closure of a street near the State Capitol, to allow for construction on the Montana Heritage Center project.

Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to approve a resolution of intention to vacate Sixth Avenue between Roberts and Sanders Streets. They will hold a public hearing on the proposal at their June 8 meeting.

The Heritage Center is a long-discussed expansion of the current Montana Historical Society building. It failed to receive authorization from the Montana Legislature for years, before lawmakers finally approved funding last year.

The original plan, as proposed in 2010, was to construct a separate building across Sixth Avenue from the current MHS location, then connect them with an underground tunnel. Now, though, the design team says they would prefer to build an addition onto the current building, which would require Sixth to be closed.

During the City Commission’s administrative meeting last Wednesday, architect David Koel of the firm Cushing Terrell laid out several reasons why they want to move forward with a single building. He said having separate locations would raise safety concerns for people crossing the street, require more entrances to be secured, and provide a less cohesive experience for visitors.

However, some residents in the surrounding neighborhood say they’re concerned about the effects of closing Sixth. They argue it would necessarily direct more traffic onto residential streets. The opponents asked the commission to take a full look at all the impacts if they move forward with vacating the street.