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No takers: Missoula County to deconstruct historic but rotting fairgrounds building

Building 36, otherwise known as the maintenance shop, is beyond repair, Missoula County Fairgrounds officials said. The county has contracted Heritage Timber for $150,000 to deconstruct the facility. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

One of the historic buildings at the Missoula County Fairgrounds will be deconstructed and salvaged for its materials after the county found no takers for the facility, even after offering to pay for its relocation.

Building 36, otherwise known as the maintenance shop, is beyond repair, fairgrounds officials said.

“We explored many options to save this building and unfortunately, it wasn’t financial feasible to rehab it and the Commercial and Culinary buildings,” said fairgrounds director Emily Brock. “It would have cost even more than those buildings.”

The collection of buildings date back to the dawn of the 20th century and represent the early days of the fairgrounds. The county has already invested $2.5 million to rehabilitate the Commercial Building, which was built in 1915.

Brock said it made no financial sense to save Building 36, given its dilapidated condition.

“We explored moving the building to other locations,” Brock said. “We offered to pay for its relocation but we couldn’t get anyone to bite on it. The other entities deemed it beyond repair, as we did.”

The Rocky Mountain Exploration Center is expected to break ground on the fairgrounds this year. It will include the Missoula Insectarium, a butterfly house and a demonstration garden. (Image courtesy of A&E)

The Missoula County Weed District, which is also housed on the fairgrounds, is looking to break ground on the Rocky Mountain Exploration Center this year.

That $12.5 million project, in a partnership with the Missoula Insectarium, will include a tropical butterfly house and a demonstration garden on wildflower pollinators. Building 36 occupies ground designated for the demonstration garden.

“It’s in the poorest shape of the three and the least useful to us and the weed district,” Brock said of the building. “It’s right in the middle of the Rocky Mountain gardens and was selected for removal.”

The county explored three options for the building, including demolition, which would have taken five weeks at a cost of $99,000. It also looked at a combination of demolition and deconstruction, which would have taken seven weeks at a cost of $129,000.

The county settled on the third and most expensive option with full deconstruction. The $150,000 contract was award this week to Heritage Timber and will take 11 weeks to complete.

The county is hoping to keep some of the historic items in the building. Heritage Timber will receive the rest.

“It always pains me if we can’t adaptively reuse a historic structure like this,” said Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “Even when we were willing to cover the cost of relocating the building, it didn’t generate any takers.”