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Main Street Revitalization Project to Bring Vibrancy, Health to Central Montana

After sitting mostly vacant since the early 1990s, the historic Crowley Block building in the heart of downtown Lewistown will see new life and contribute to the health of the community after an $8.6 million rehabilitation and redevelopment of the basement, first floor and mezzanine. The building at 311 W. Main St. will become the new clinical site for the One Health community health center. The new location enables the health center to add and expand services, increasing efficiency and improving the patient experience. Financing came together through investment from One Health, First Interstate Bank and the federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program from the community development lender MoFi. The project highlights the power of the NMTC program in enabling catalytic projects in economically underserved communities that might not otherwise be possible. Construction is expected to be complete in May 2022.

“Community health centers are the backbone of our rural health care system, and One Health will serve the needs of Lewistown and Central Montana by improving access to quality, affordable health care,” said U.S. Senator Jon Tester. “I’m grateful for MoFi’s work to secure the New Markets Tax Credit, which provides critical funding for this project to be successful, and I look forward to the health center serving folks in the Lewistown community for years to come.”

“This is yet another great example of the New Markets Tax Credit boosting investment in Montana communities,” said U.S. Senator Steve Daines. “I am excited to see how this new project will serve Lewistown and improve the health care needs of residents in Central Montana.”

MoFi President Dave Glaser said the project aligns perfectly with the NMTC program’s goals. “This investment increases access to quality health care, close to home, so Fergus County residents don’t have to travel to access the services they need,” he said. “Through health care investment, quality job creation, and the renewal of a long-vacant downtown landmark, the One Health project embodies the far-reaching impact of NMTC.”

MoFi identifies NMTC projects based on factors including job creation, job quality, the provision of services in low-income communities and alignment with local development priorities. MoFi sells the tax credits to investors, typically banks, and puts the proceeds from the sale into the project, providing about 20% of the total costs. The projects that MoFi supports would not have been able to move forward without the tax credit. First Interstate Bank has agreed to purchase the New Markets Tax Credits for the One Health project and will provide the debt financing.

“The realization of this clinic in Lewistown is an example of the collaborative effort by First Interstate Bank, MoFi and One Health to bring health and prosperity to the people within a community,” said Heather Smith of First Interstate Bank. “I was honored to be the lender on a project that will be so impactful for so many people now and into their bright future. This project was just what the doctor ordered.”

The Crowley Block building was constructed in 1913 and has been home to a wide variety of businesses, in addition to holding offices and apartments on its upper floors. The building has been mostly vacant for about 30 years. One Health, a federally qualified health center serving Central and Eastern Montana, purchased the building in 2019 with plans to rehabilitate it and make it the new clinical home for the health center’s Lewistown site, bringing vibrancy to Main Street.

With triple the space of its current location, the health center will use the basement and first floor to expand its current primary care, obstetrics and behavioral health services, introduce dental services and a new on-site pharmacy, and centralize administrative offices to house all staff in a single building and eliminate the need to rent additional space. Homeword, a Missoula-based nonprofit, is working to convert the building’s second and third floors, which have been vacant since the 1940s, into affordable housing units for low-income families.

The new location and services will allow the health center to reach thousands of additional patients from Lewistown and surrounding communities in Fergus County. The health center is also expected to create 20 full-time equivalent jobs for medical providers, nurses, medical assistants, a dentist, dental assistants, a dental hygienist, a pharmacist, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants.

“The impact of this project extends beyond Lewistown’s Main Street,” said Dr. David Mark, CEO of One Health. “The expansion of essential services like dental and behavioral health care will reverberate through surrounding communities and improve access to quality health care in Central Montana. The NMTC program was the mechanism that made this community investment possible.”

The NMTC program was enacted in 2000, as part of a bipartisan effort to spur private investment and economic growth in low-income and rural communities that lack access to the capital needed to support businesses, create jobs and sustain healthy economies. The credits are awarded annually through a competitive process; to date, MoFi has received nearly $631 million in New Markets Tax Credits.

The program has remained thanks to incremental, short-term extensions and is currently in the first year of a five-year extension that was enacted in December 2020. Recently, members of Congress introduced the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Extension Act of 2021, which would permanently extend the program. Both Senators Tester and Daines have been longtime supporters of permanency, illustrating the bipartisan appeal of the program.

Since 2009, MoFi has financed 30 projects across Montana with NMTC, totaling over $312 million in value, and creating and retaining nearly 2,500 permanent jobs. Projects have been completed in cities including Billings, Bozeman, Browning, Butte, Great Falls, Havre, Helena, Kalispell, Missoula, Polson and Poplar.

MoFi is actively looking at projects for its most recent NMTC allocation. Communities, businesses and nonprofits that have projects of at least $5 million with a gap in financing are encouraged to contact MoFi at 844-728-9234 or www.mofi.org to see if they qualify.

Image via High Plains Architects