The ExerDance building in Uptown Butte is slowly coming back to life | Montana News

After years as a poster child for vacant buildings in Uptown Butte, the ExerDance building is showing signs of new life.

A couple from Texas bought the five-story building at 75 E. Park St. a few years ago, and last year interior demolitions and structural work began, much of it in the basement.

The Urban Revitalization Agency, which oversees a tax district covering parts of Uptown, directed $150,000 toward the work last year and awarded another $150,000 grant to the project on Tuesday.

Grants can cover up to 25% of eligible costs and are paid only when the work is completed. This year’s work will cost around $600,000 and will include more structural support, new steel beams and some work on the first floor and mezzanine level.

A third phase will likely be needed next year, and while final plans for the building are still pending, it’s expected to be a mix of uses, said Karen Byrnes, director of community development for Butte-Silver Bow.

“They’re looking at some sort of professional, retail and commercial space on the lower floors, and then most likely residential above,” Byrnes told the URA board on Tuesday. “That’s the gist of the plan without the details.”

The investors are from Rockwall, Texas, and they also bought the old YMCA and Rudolph buildings in Uptown Butte, Byrnes said.

The renovation project is overseen by Bozeman Historic Preservation Architect Lesley Gilmore and Bozeman-based Ensitio Design.

Gilmore spoke in detail about all the work and said there was still a lot to do.

“They’re working very hard and steadily, but it’s still going to be a while before we see a really big improvement,” she said, adding, “It’s still amazing how awesome this building is.”

“It was a well-constructed building,” she said.

It was built in 1885 and was once known as Park Street Gym but hasn’t been used for at least 15 years, Byrnes said.

Belgrade developer Michael Libster co-owned the building and was preparing for a $2.8 million renovation in 2009 when his real estate was caught in the Great Recession and the money to finance the project n was no longer available. The URA has also tried to commercialize the building in the past.

Butte’s real estate market, like much of Montana, is booming, adding to optimism that the ExerDance project will continue.

Board member Bob Worley said he was glad the building was revived, a sentiment echoed by member Bob Brown.

“I don’t understand the architectural or technical aspects of this building, but I believe this building is really important to the Uptown area covered by the URA,” Brown said. “Keeping buildings like this preserved, restored and functional – we exist for many reasons, but this is certainly the main one.”

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