Planners take sides over old Westfeeds mill building

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

City of Lewistown Historic Preservation Officer Duane Ferdinand (right) discusses possible restoration of the 1925 WestFeeds mill building with a group of 11 who came to tour the building Wednesday. Some participants, such as Mark Machler (left) believe the building is not structurally sound enough to be saved.

 

Preserve the old or build the new? A tour of the 1925 WestFeeds storage building Wednesday turned into a debate over whether it made more sense to restore the brick structure or remove it as part of a proposed park and amphitheater development.

In favor of removing the building are members of the Youth Empowerment committee of the Recharge Our Community program, along with some members of the Lewistown Trails Coordinating Committee. In favor of preserving it are members of the Lewistown Historic Resources Commission.

The building in question sits across the parking lot west of the larger WestFeeds building, and was once used to store, grind and mix components of livestock feed. Wednesday’s building tour was organized by Lewistown’s Planning Director and Historic Preservation Officer Duane Ferdinand to allow members of the Historic Resources Commission to become familiar with the structure.

The commission, Ferdinand said, is interested in the fate of the building due to a recent proposal to develop the area into what is being called Creekside Park.

The park proposal, developed by the ROC Youth Empowerment committee, includes an amphitheater for performing arts, seating, playground, public restrooms and parking. Proponents of the park hope the larger WestFeeds building will be redeveloped into a brewery, but planned to remove the smaller building, perhaps replacing it with an outdoor dining facility.

 

A difference of opinion

“This is a perfect example of throwing good money after bad,” said Mike Chapman, a trails committee member. Chapman was responding to Ferdinand’s proposal that the building be repaired and used as a visitor center. “You will spend at least twice as much to fix it up as you would to tear it down. This building doesn’t have any architectural character that would make it worth the effort.”

“We’ve had worse that have been restored,” Ferdinand replied. “The architect said it could be built into the park plan very readily.”

“But at what expense?” Chapman shot back.

According to those who claimed to know about the building’s condition, restoration would have to include replacing the foundation and support beams, putting on a new roof, and repairing and reinforcing the brick walls.

“The walls leak, the roof needs to be completely rebuilt and the architect we spoke with said he wouldn’t take the project as we would never get rid of the mouse smell in the walls,” former building owner John Sanford said.

“There used to be a big shaker upstairs,” said Mark Machler, who once worked for WestFeeds. “We used it in feed production and it literally shook the building apart. It’s a lost cause.”

“I’m not aware of any type of structural assessment that’s been done on this building,” Ferdinand said. “We would need to get an engineer in here to tell us what needs to be done.”

City of Lewistown Building Inspector Rick Benton said anyone wanting to renovate the structure would need to bring it up to City codes.

“It needs a structural analysis and drawings, but it is also a change in use so it must be rebuilt to meet all the current codes,” Benton told the tour group members.

“How much renovation can be done and still retain the historic aspect?” wondered Brad McCardle, trail coordinator for the City.

 

Who decides?

According to Ferdinand, plans affecting historic structures are required to be brought to the Historic Resources Commission for review.

However, because the building is owned by the City of Lewistown, the City Commission will likely be the body to decide the final disposition of the structure.

According to Ferdinand, the Historic Resources Commission will discuss the property at its next meeting, Thursday, Sept. 1, at 7 a.m. The meeting location will be announced at a later date.

 

 

 

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