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There is a lot of construction going on all over town, much of it on projects that I’ve reported on in previous columns. The three new elementary schools are working hard to keep on track for completion by the first of August. Permits show that as soon as they move out of the old Bryant School building (now that school is out), it will be torn down to make room for the rest of the new school building.

There are two new office buildings that will go on Cabernet Drive called the Koford Buildings. Sussex Construction is the builder for both of these. I am not sure of the businesses that will be located there yet but will keep you posted.

One of the former Helena Industries buildings (the one on the south side of Helena Avenue) will become a theater for the Montana Playwrights. Occupancy is set for 70 and it will be complete with a stage and dressing rooms for performers.

Rumors are flying about the Shopko building and a potential large retailer looking at that building. Let’s hope it gets a new tenant/owner quickly so it doesn’t sit empty. Sad to see Shopko leave as it was quite successful here. Employees told me that unfortunately, even though the stores in Montana did quite well, they couldn’t hold up the stores in other states that weren’t doing so well. Boulevards along the Cedar and Montana Avenue sides of Shopko are sure looking rough as they don’t seem to be taking care of the landscaping now.

Permits are in place for the demolition of the former Helena Industries (Allen Appliance) building on the corner of Cedar and N. Montana Ave. I’m sure Farmer’s State Bank is anxious to get their bank project started for that stellar location.

Mountain View Co-op opened for business this past Tuesday in their new gas station, convenience store, and Blue Taco location along Custer Avenue. Stop by and check them out – it is a very nice new store. Look for the Montana Club Restaurant (out of Missoula) to begin groundwork soon on their new location next-door to Mountain View.

Keeping up with new trends – Walmart is now offering grocery pickup where you can shop online and then pick up at the front of the store. You can order online, reserve a pickup time and they will bring your order out to the curb to your vehicle. They will even load your groceries for free! Look for designated pick-up area parking signs. If you go to the Walmart website, you can download the app.

A group of downtown and area stores have created a “Helena Vintage and Resale” guide sheet featuring nine stores with used, new, and unusual offerings. Stores included are Beargrass Trading Co. (417 N. Last Chance Gulch), Buzz Boutique (424 Last Chance Gulch), Copperleaf Design Center (1018 Custer Ave. Suite 9, The Dandelion Vintage, home décor and more, (1807 11th Ave.), Funky Trunk (430 N. Last Chance Gulch), Golden Girls Antiques Mall (505 N. Last Chance Gulch), Mae & June Vintage Market (1238 Bozeman Ave.), Sage and Oats Trading Post (330 N. Jackson St.), and Spruce Finer Consignor (330 N. Last Chance Gulch). Stop by the Chamber or any of these stores for a map and make an afternoon venture to visit these fun stores!

I keep hearing about quite a few projects – significant projects – that are in the works for Helena but then they tell me they are not ready to be announced. Good to know that there are great projects in the pipeline for Helena in the next year or so. Also, the city continues to have a great number of remodeling permits on their list, so local contractors seem to be quite busy.

Cathy Burwell is the CEO of the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce.

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