The Billings Food Bank is moving ahead with its plans to renovate an old warehouse into a new community gathering place called the 16th Street Project, thanks to a $500,000 federal grant.
“This building was originally built as a mechanic shop,” said executive director of the Billings Food Bank, Sheryle Shandy, on Friday.
The remains of this old mechanic shop stands on the corner of 16th Street North and Third Avenue North. This building has seen better days. It’s been a target of vandalism, graffiti, and even theft.
“We lost, we think about a half-million dollars of stuff in here that was uninsured,” said Shandy.
Thanks to the $500,000, which was part of federal coronavirus relief money, plans are underway to transform the old building into a new community gathering place.
“You can see we’re going to keep the overhead doors from the warehouse, but we’re putting black glass in them. It’s going to look really classy,” Shandy said.
Phase one of the project included demolition of the adjacent building, repairing and insulating the roof, and cleaning.
“Actually, the folks that were in there had been cooking meth, so it took $40,000 just to scrub the walls and the floors,” Shandy said.
Money well spent so the project can move forward into phase two. Contractors will work through the winter on major interior remodeling.
The former mechanic shop will transform into an event center that’s able to accommodate over 1,000 guests. It’ll have a café, meeting room, outdoor patio, 12 new restrooms, and even dressing rooms for events like weddings.
“But it’s also going to allow us to expand our food service. The kitchen is much bigger. We’ll be able to produce more meals. We’re trying to, our goal is to go to more hot meals being delivered,” Shandy said.
The new kitchen in the event center will be big enough so that meals can be prepped in large quantities, and then frozen for future delivery to those in need.
These renovations are a long time coming.
“We’re in a good place now and it’s time to do this,” Shandy said.
The opening date of the 16th Street Project is still up in the air, but Shandy has hope.
“Well, the food bank is going to be 40 years old as of May of next year. I’d really like for this to be done by May of next year,” Shandy said.
The wait will be worthwhile, as the Billings Food Bank hopes the 16th Street Project will bring people together.