Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Montana: Lease for Military Entrance Processing Station (Butte)
In January 1999, the General Services Administration (GSA) awarded a lease for the Butte Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to the owner of an historic building in the Butte National Historic Landmark District (NHL), reversing its earlier proposal to award a lease for new construction in the suburbs. The building, currently vacant and in poor repair, will be rehabilitated in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Plans for the work will be developed in consultation with the City of Butte and the Montana State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO).
GSA needed to lease approximately 15,500 square feet of space for MEPS, a Department of Defense facility that tests and processes recruits for military service. MEPS’ previous facility in Butte was in leased space in the historic Finlen Hotel, within the NHL District. However, following analysis of revised specifications prepared by MEPS, in 1996 GSA issued a Solicitation for Offers (SFO) to seek new space.
From the outset, there was significant public interest in this project. The city was anxious to keep MEPS downtown and made funds available through city-backed tax increment financing. Despite this, GSA initially eliminated responses to the SFO for existing buildings or sites within the NHL district and pursued a site for new construction in the suburbs.
The Montana SHPO, with the assistance of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, convinced GSA’s regional administrator to formally initiate the Section 106 process more than a year after the initial SFO had been issued. Following a meeting attended by Council staff in Butte in September 1997, GSA reevaluated its actions and agreed to reissue the SFO and consult with the city, the Montana SHPO, the Council, and the National Trust regarding its content. After considerable deliberation among the consulting parties, GSA revised the SFO and reissued it in April 1998.
While a lease of 15,500 square feet of space would be considered modest by most communities, the problems faced by Butte’s NHL District parallel those facing many larger communities: historic downtowns are struggling to stem the flow of businesses to the suburbs. In this case, the city fought to keep an important Federal employer in the downtown area. Such concern for retaining Federal facilities in historic downtowns was a catalyst for Executive Order 13006, which requires Federal agencies to give first consideration to reuse of historic buildings in central cities when locating Federal facilities.
Following the lease award, Paul Putz, the Montana SHPO, wrote the Council to thank it for its assistance: “Because of your efforts, the GSA, Denver Office, has taken a new look at the means by which its decisions impact historic areas and the needs communities have for preservation projects. The encouragement and energy which you contributed to this ‘victory for everybody’ were crucial factors.”
Staff contact: Ralston Cox
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