Power Mercantile (Reid’s) building center of downtown possibilities

Charlie Denison

Montana Cooperative Development Center Executive Director Janice Brown, left, shares a laugh with Arts and Entertainment District representative Carol Woolsey and Lewistown City Planner Duane Ferdinand during a tour of the Power Mercantile Building Tuesday. Brown, who came to town from Great Falls, toured the building to see if it could qualify as a housing cooperative pilot project. However, more research is needed before a decision can be made.
Photo by Charlie Denison


Could the Power Mercantile building on Main Street be the future of Lewistown’s downtown? A discussion has started about the potential of the building, which this week was in discussions as the host of potential housing co-operative.

The conversation escalated Tuesday, when Montana Cooperative Development Center Executive Director Janice Brown made a quick visit to Lewistown, meeting with Lewistown City Planner Duane Ferdinand, interim City Manager Holly Phelps, Recharge Our Community Downtown committee Chris Cooler and Arts and Entertainment District representative Carol Woolsey to tour the Power Mercantile Building, known to many in town as the Reid’s building.

For the past year, Brown has worked with MCDC, where she works with communities and supervises a statewide network of cooperative development specialists all over Montana and Idaho in hopes to create new cooperative opportunities.

In hopes to turn the vacant Power Mercantile building into something beneficial and productive for the community, Ferdinand reached out to Brown months ago, sending her a feasibility study on the building.

Brown answered Ferdinand’s call, coming to town to take a tour of 302 W. Main Street.

While touring the Power Mercantile Brown informed Ferdinand, Phelps and others present that MCDC is currently looking for housing cooperative pilot projects in Montana and Idaho.


What is a housing cooperative?

According to Brown, a housing cooperative is a democratic approach to housing, as people join together to form a for-profit cooperative corporation. Those involved in the co-op pay a monthly fee to cover their share of the operating expenses

“With a co-op, you own a share of the overall development,” Brown said. “It’s a great way to invest in your community.”

Brown said advantages of a housing co-op include personal income tax deductions, lower turnover rates, lower real estate tax assessments (in some local areas), controlled maintenance costs and resident participation and control.

But can it happen in Lewistown? Brown said it’s too early to tell.

“We still need to know if there’s a market for this in Lewistown,” Brown said.

According to Ferdinand, a housing study was done in Lewistown around 10 years ago when the Ouellette Place Apartments off East Main Street were resurrected. Brown and others on the tour recommended a new housing survey be completed before the Power Mercantile building could be seriously considered for the pilot project.

Those in consideration for the pilot project will receive applications next week. The winners – six to eight communities – will be announced in September


Other options for the Power Mercantile building

As members of the ROC Downtown Committee, Cooler, Ferdinand, Karen Kuhlmann, Greg Clark and others have looked to the Power Mercantile Building as a viable opportunity to stimulate Lewistown’s Main Street. A co-op is one of four possibilities.

Cooler said that building owner Dave King has expressed his support for what the ROC Downtown committee is doing.

“He is very willing to work with us,” Cooler said of King. “We will meet with him in the next few days and see what he is willing to do.”

As for the co-op option, Cooler said there is still a chance Power Mercantile can be considered for the pilot project, but it all depends on MCDC’s timeline.

“Our feasibility study and planning grants may suffice get us in the program, but I think we’d have to have ownership of the building to be chosen, and it’s unlikely that’d be the case by Aug. 1,” Cooler said. “Right now, we are moving along slowly but surely. Baby steps. What matters to us right now is that we have forward momentum and a lot of community support.”






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