February will come like a wrecking ball for Helena's Capital Hill Mall, which is slated for demolition early next month.
“We have the demolition permit in hand and are ready to go,” said Mark Esponda, a vice president at Dick Anderson Construction and partner with D&M Development, the company leading the effort to demolish and rebuild the site.
The most recent visible site activity was fencing that went up around the parking lot and structure. This, Esponda said, is to protect the neighborhood as well as those working on the site. However, there still is access to the parking lot on the west side, as it has been made available during the legislative session to allow for shuttle operations to the Capitol.
Currently, the mall is undergoing asbestos abatement.
“The mall was built in the '60s era, and there is asbestos in the flooring and soffits," Esponda said. “This should be done by the first of February. Shortly thereafter, we can start demolition.
"We’re working with our demo contractors to figure out what the best thing to do is. There will be some recycling of metal, but we will leave that to our contractor and put that in their scope of work."
Esponda said they are still looking at the numbers and are working with contractors to determine the best way to recycle the metal and any other materials inside the structure.
“The (demolition) process should take a month-and-a-half,” he said. “We’re kind of working on different plans and site concepts on what might work there. How different projects would fit on the site. We don’t have anything set in stone.
“It’s a great location in Helena. It’s the corridor entrance to Helena and it could be a good project to revitalize that corridor in the city.”
While future plans are up in the air, discussions have included the possibility of housing elements such as apartments or condos.
“We don’t have a lot of things set in stone as far as who wants to go in there,” Esponda said.
The mall had once been thriving with a Dillard’s department store, which closed in 2010, and J.C. Penney, which closed in July 2017. Lucky Lil's Casino was the only remaining tenant in the 208,000 square-foot building, built in 1965 with ivory-colored brick and pebbled concrete panels
Lucky Lil’s had expressed interest in remaining in the new development. However, there has been no recent conversation to include the casino in the future of the site, Esponda said.
Lucky Lil's is celebrating its last day open, Jan. 13, by offering customers their third drink purchase free until midnight.
The building actually demolished methodically with the use of excavators and other heavy equipment to make a clear palette on which to begin work.
“It’s an exciting project,” Esponda said. “It will do something to help the community.”