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Blight to boarding house: Affordable housing part of plan for north Billings

Colossus Building Boarding House
Posted at 7:45 PM, Mar 22, 2023

BILLINGS — The Colussus Building is trying out a unique concept that's centuries old: Boarding houses.

For owner Allen Rice, it's a big idea to try to kill two birds with one stone: offering affordable housing options and revitalizing 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.

Rice's boarding house has about 25 rooms built out of 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.

An affordable solution park ranger Abram Johnson was glad to find moving to Billings from the Flathead.

“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.

Off of First Avenue North, the Colossus Building is in the East Billings Urban Renewal District, or EBURD.

Housing is just one of many ideas for breathing new life in the EBURD.

“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 stretches from west to east from North 22nd Street to Main Street by MetraPark, and north to south from North Park to the railroad tracks.

New projects are already in the works, including a mixed-use residential/commercial building, the new Rimrock Foundation facility and an amphitheater built by the owner of the Pub Station.

"It's bringing more jobs, bringing more housing," Haskins said.

For the BIRD, the Colossus Building is a success in an area ripe with potential for bringing entertainment, culture, and affordable housing to a quickly growing city.

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