Montana Studios Purchases Historic Butte Building

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Another great Montana company is moving to Butte! Montana Studios, a film production company based out of Hamilton, recently purchased the 40 East Broadway building in uptown Butte. Formerly the old Northwestern Energy building, this complex will now be Montana Studios new headquarters. 

We spoke with Brianne Downey, Financial and Project Manager for Butte’s Urban Revitalization Agency (URA), to learn more about the project.

History of 40 East Broadway

The complex was home to Northwestern Energy (and historically, Montana Power) for the past 100 years. It is made up of 5 buildings constructed in the early 1900s that total over 115,000 square feet. The company remained in this location until 2016 when its continual growth forced the company to relocate to a larger facility in Butte. In 2017, Butte-Silver Bow (BSB) acquired the building to market and promote the business benefits of the space.

Benefits of the Complex

For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting uptown Butte, it truly is a unique location. Historic buildings, a friendly community, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains are just a few highlights of uptown Butte where this building resides.

In addition to being a historic building in Butte, the 40 East Broadway building falls within Butte’s Opportunity Zone. As discussed in an earlier interview with Brianne, an opportunity zone allows investors with capital gains liability to take advantage of tax incentives. As the new headquarters for Montana Studios, the company can be eligible for preferential tax treatment. Additionally, the building is also in the URA and Historic Landmark District which qualifies the space for additional redevelopment incentives.

As an organization in the film industry, Montana Studios will also benefit from the recently signed Montana Economic Industry Advancement (MEDIA) Act. In May 2019, Governor Steve Bullock approved the act, which is a tax credit for film productions made in Montana. According to Downey, it provides a “20 percent production expenditure tax credit, with additional components that can increase the transferable credit to a maximum of 35 percent of total base film production investment.” 

With the presence of Montana Studios and the MEDIA Act, the city of Butte can benefit from attracting filmmakers who may not have been aware of the filming possibilities here. 

Butte-Silver Bow and URA Involvement

As mentioned earlier, Butte-Silver Bow acquired the building a few years ago to promote the space with the hopes of boosting the economy in Butte. When asked about the URA involvement in connecting with Montana Studios, Downey herself played quite a major role:

“In April of 2019, I attended an Opportunity Zone conference in Denver, CO and met fellow Montanan, Steve Grover. Steve spoke about a project in Hamilton’s Opportunity Zone and I invited him to visit Butte, knowing that we could be the perfect location for a second location for Montana Studios. In early May, Steve and I toured the Uptown Opportunity Zone area, including 40 E. Broadway. Steve felt that the building would be a great match for Montana Studios. By mid-June, Montana Studios had submitted and presented their plans to a BSB internal review committee.”

From there, the plan was referred to the Butte-Silver Bow Council of Commissioners for approval. By October 2019, the parties entered into an Option to Purchase Agreement and the building ownership was transferred to Montana Studios by January 31, 2020. According to Downey, this was a relatively fast development for a project of this size. 

Shoutouts

It should go without saying that a project of this size succeeds thanks to the efforts of many. Members of Butte-Silver Bow, Northwestern Energy, and Montana Studios worked hard together to see this project across the finish line and find the perfect tenant to take ownership of the building.

Downey: “I want to emphasize the collaborative effort by everyone involved. Karen Byrnes, Community Development Director, for her leadership and ability to coordinate and answer every question that could arise. Pat Holland, Governmental Buildings Director, and his staff for their diligence in keeping the building in great condition for the past 3 years – no easy task! Current and former maintenance engineers from Northwestern Energy also helped us immensely. They were able to walk through with everyone and show us the ins-and-outs of the building. Finally, Steve Grover and his team have been using local contractors and vendors for work on the project. Montana Studios has been involving the community at every step, and it is something that is very important to the organization and the ultimate success of this project.”

Read the Full Interview Here

1. What is the history of the 40 E Broadway building?

40 E. Broadway is the former home to Northwestern Energy (NWE) and historically, Montana Power, for the last 100 years. It is 5 original buildings, totaling over 115,000 sq ft., each being built in the early 1900s. As the company grew, they acquired the neighboring buildings and adapted the space to suit their needs. This worked until they could not adapt any more space and relocated to their current location on the corner of Park and Main in 2016.  Butte-Silver Bow (BSB) acquired the building in 2017 and have worked to market and promote the unique space. 

The building is in Butte’s Opportunity Zone and provides a great benefit for Montana Studios’ ability to take advantage of the tax incentives involved in that legislation.  It is also in the URA and Historic Landmark District, thus qualifying it for additional redevelopment incentives. 

The other benefit to the location of 40 E. Broadway is that it is in the heart of Uptown. We are excited to have that space filled again and bring more people to Uptown Butte, expanding not only the Uptown’s economy, but all of Butte’s economy.  

2. Can you describe the role your department had in bringing Montana Studios to Butte? How long did the process take?

In April of 2019, I attended an Opportunity Zone conference in Denver, CO and met fellow Montanan, Steve Grover.  Steve spoke about a project in Hamilton’s Opportunity Zone and I invited him to visit Butte, knowing that we could be the perfect location for a second location for Montana Studios. In early May, Steve and I toured the Uptown Opportunity Zone area, including 40 E. Broadway. Steve felt that the building would be a great match for Montana Studios. By mid-June, Montana Studios had submitted and presented their plans to a BSB internal review committee. That plan was referred to the BSB Council of Commissioners and they entered into an Option to Purchase Agreement with Montana Studios on October 2, 2019 and the building was officially transferred on January 31, 2020!  This is relatively fast for a development of this size.

I want to emphasize the collaborative effort by everyone involved.  Karen Byrnes, Community Development Director, for her leadership and ability to coordinate and answer every question that could arise.  Pat Holland, Governmental Buildings Director, and his staff for their diligence in keeping the building in great condition for the past 3 years – no easy task! The current and former maintenance engineers from Northwestern Energy also helped us immensely.  They were able to walk through with everyone and show us the ins-and-outs of the building. Finally, Steve Grover and his team have been using local contractors and vendors for work on the project. Montana Studios has been involving the community at every step, and it is something that is very important to the organization and the ultimate success of this project.

3. Any other notes you would like to share?

We are also excited about the film industry coming to Butte. In May of 2019, governor Steve Bullock signed the Montana Economic Industry Advancement (MEDIA) Act, which is a tax credit for film productions made in our state. The MEDIA Act provides for a 20 percent production expenditure tax credit, with additional components that can increase the transferable credit to a maximum of 35 percent of total base film production investment. This will benefit our area by attracting filmmakers that may not have been aware of the filming possibilities here.

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