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Affordable housing part of plan for north Billings



Billings, Montana – A novel idea that has been around for centuries is being tested at The Colussus Building: boarding houses.

Allen Rice, the owner, thinks it’s a great idea to try to solve two problems at once by providing cheap housing options and reviving blight in Billings.

“I’m just doing what I can to revitalize this old building and clean it up, so it’s not just another blighted building in the EBURD,” Rice said.

About 25 rooms make up Rice’s boarding home, which was constructed from an old office building.

“It’s considered a boarding house because the sleeping rooms are separate and there’s no bathroom, or showers, or kitchen. They’re in the common areas,” Rice said.

Abram Johnson, a park ranger, moved from the Flathead to Billings in search of an economical answer.

“I was in Columbia Falls, which is like 20 minutes away from Glacier. So that was ridiculously expensive, so I felt like everything was way overpriced over there, so this is a lot better,” Johnson said.

The Colossus Building is located in the East Billings Urban Renewal Area, or EBURD, off of First Avenue North.

One of several suggestions for reviving the EBURD is housing.

“We also have three more housing projects that are on the table to EBURD,” says Michelle Haskins, director of the Billings Industrial Revitalization District (BIRD), a nonprofit that manages the EBURD Tax Increment Finance district.

“Other things we have are very culture-based, lots of music, art,” Haskins said.

The EBURD extends north to south from North Park to the train lines and west to east from North 22nd Street to Main Street near MetraPark.

A new Rimrock Foundation facility, a residential/commercial complex, and an amphitheater constructed by the owner of the Pub Station are all now under construction.

“It’s bringing more jobs, bringing more housing,” Haskins said.

The Colossus Building is a success for the BIRD in a location with the potential to attract entertainment, culture, and reasonably priced housing to a rapidly expanding city.

“I think bringing things back to the core is very important,” Haskins said.


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