From Pea Cannery to Prime Real Estate
Bozeman was a very different place 100 years ago. Imagine living in the Tinsley House at the Museum of the Rockies. (By the way, visiting this Living History Farm is free all summer!) The gold rush that brought so many people through the Gallatin Valley on the Bozeman Trail was over, and those people were settling in to new lives on Montana’s open land. The town of Bozeman was established in 1864, and by the early 1900s, its population had grown to more than 3,000 people. Montana Agricultural College had started offering classes, and the Northern Pacific Railroad provided an artery to the outside world.
Several businesses became established near the railroad tracks, including the Bozeman Canning Company in 1917. More than 200 people spent their days canning peas in the four-story building still standing near the corner of Rouse Avenue and Oak Street. Thousands of cases of peas were packaged there for decades, until the early 1960s when the last owner closed up shop.
The towering cannery building, warehouse and other outbuildings then housed various industrial companies or sat empty for quite some time. The most recent occupants, Revelation Industries, built electrical circuits and lighting, some of which are installed in New York City’s Times Square. When Revelation’s owners decided to move on, they sold the cannery building and surrounding 8.5 acres to Barry Brown and Scott Dehlendorf.
As soon as the deal closed in early May, these local developers began to organize a plan to breathe new life into Bozeman’s Cannery District. They already owned the property adjacent to the cannery, and had been thinking about how to enhance the area by transforming it into a mixed use hub with a variety of offerings. “The idea is to create a vibrant community feel that’s very pedestrian friendly; a place to come and get a lot done in one trip,” Brown explained.
With the recent acquisition of three additional acres to the north, Brown and Dehlendorf now have over 14 acres to work with. They have already enticed several thriving businesses to set up shop in the recently renovated buildings on the site. In 2008, the old Hardware Building was restored to its original brick façade, and Planet Natural moved in not long after. Pizza Campania and Barkenhowell’s moved into the Granary Building after it received a renovation and addition in 2012.
According to Brown, 1,600 families visit Lone Mountain Gymnastics and Swim School each week. Kids now flip, tumble, and swim through the space that was once a steel manufacturing plant. Part of the Cannery District’s master plan includes a possible expansion of Lone Mountain’s facility. Brown said the gym is considering construction of another building to support its growth. The current plan under consideration involves grassing in Montana Ave, the small street that runs behind the current building, and adding another building to the west. The proposed new building may be as large as 10,000 square feet, and the newly added lawn would serve as a space for outdoor activities during Lone Mountain’s summer camps.
Right now, Brown and Dehlendorf are focused on the Cannery building, with renovations expected to begin in September 2014. The Cannery District Partnership submitted its master plan to the city in mid-June. However, the permitting process is tricky because the land crosses jurisdictions. Part of the property is in the city and part is in the county, which is regulated by the state. Ultimately, plans will need to be reviewed by city, county, and state officials.
Construction should take about six months and then tenants will be able to move in. Many local companies are contributing to the project—Ben Lloyd, with Comma-Q Architecture is designing the project while Langlas & Associates, Nishkian Monks, and Stahly Engineering & Associates provide construction and engineering support. The developers are working hard to maintain the historic character of all of the buildings on their site and avoid tearing down structures whenever possible. “If we can at all salvage it, we’ll salvage it,” Brown said.
The first floor of the finished Cannery building will most likely hold a restaurant. Brown and Dehlendorf have been talking with proprietors of a casual restaurant and bar “with a national presence,” according to Brown. The partners are working with technology companies interested in using the third and fourth floors as office space, while the second floor remains available. The nearby warehouse will also be renovated and likely converted into office space for another technology company.
After renovations finish, the partnership would like to add several new buildings. They are trying to entice a sports retailer to move in to a building they plan to build west of the potential Lone Mountain expansion. It would front Oak Street and be a complimentary addition to the other businesses in the area. According to Brown, it is important to the developers to avoid having competitive businesses on the property. Their goal is to create a place where businesses can last and where residents can accomplish several tasks without having to travel too far. The property’s proximity to downtown Bozeman and its location on the main route to Bridger Bowl have made it an attractive place for retailers and restaurants.
A detailed look at the Cannery District Partnership’s master plan can be found on its website: www.cannerydistrict.com. It may take a few years to build out the entire property, but once the partners are finished they hope to have created a useful retail and office district from what was once a deteriorating industrial area. And, because they are committed to historically accurate restoration, the old cannery won’t be hard to recognize for those who once worked there.