Billings, Montana


Randy Hafer


15,000 square feet



Project Highlights

National Register of Historic Places; Historic Tax Credits; Montana Preservation Alliance (Photos: Tim Struck)


In 1999, the One South Broadway building sat empty, with weeds growing from the cracked old sidewalks running along Minnesota Avenue, the first street in Billings, Montana. While the downtown, north of the tracks was beginning to reenergize, Minnesota Avenue on the Southside was not considered a viable location for redevelopment. Seeing and seizing opportunity, a few willing individuals were convinced that Billings could support five unique loft living and office spaces.  The investors also learned how they could benefit from historic tax credits by renovating a historic building. In addition, High Plains Architects agreed to lease part of the first floor of the building for its offices. A limited partnership was formed and each partner made a small investment to capitalize the project.

Originally named the Armour Cold Storage Building, this 15,000 SF project converted One South Broadway, originally built in 1918 as a cold storage warehouse and distribution center, into the first loft apartments and loft office spaces in Billings. Exterior work included refurbishing and restoring the existing wood double hung windows, including replacement of single pane glass with new insulated glass, tuckpointing and repair of existing masonry, as well as masonry cleaning. Interior work included in-floor radiant heat, cellulose insulation for acoustic insolation purposes, new electrical and plumbing, and evaporative cooling. The design focused on maintaining the historical integrity of the original building. The building was completed in 2001.

This project was a first in many ways: It was the first significant development/redevelopment in downtown Billings “south of the tracks” in decades. It was the first warehouse to mixed-use conversion in the region. It was the first ‘loft’ style apartment project in the region and the first new downtown housing of any type in decades. It was the first certified historic tax credit project in Billings in decades. And it was the first mixed-use commercial building in the area to utilize energy efficient radiant floor heating and evaporative cooling systems.  It designed to comply with the Secretary of the Interior's “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties” and has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2006, One South Broadway was recognized by the Montana Preservation Alliance and a recipient of the Excellence in Historic Preservation Award.

HISTORY (from the National Register Listing)

Billings, located halfway between Minneapolis and Spokane, boasted railroads running in seven direction by 1916.  Quantities of freight arrived each day from points east, and large warehouses lined the tracks, filled with goods awaiting resale.  Billings supplied shopkeepers across eastern Montana and northern Wyoming, and in 1916 its annual wholesale grocery and produce business alone estimated at $3 million dollars. 

Among the businesses to use Billings as a distribution center was Armour and Company.  The largest meatpacker in America by 1891, Chicago-based Armour revolutionized the business, establishing a 'disassembly' line to expedite butchering.  The ruthless employer and competitor also pioneered new uses for slaughter by-products and financed early experiments with refrigerated railcars so it could ship its projects father afield.  By 1903, Armour had a cold storage warehouse next door; another small cold storage building owned by prominent Billings businessmen Christian and Peter Yegen occupied this prize corner lot.  Sometime before 1918, Armour purchased this corner and built a state-of-the-art, two-story, cold-storage warehouse with a concrete refrigeration shaft and cold rooms on each level.  Engineered to hold a large amount of weight, the building relied on massive posts and beams to support the open interior spaces that characterize warehouses.  Capped by a flat roof, the brick building displays many elements typical of Western Commercial style warehouses included a raised foundation, minimal ornamentation, and regularly spaced windows.

Converted to lofts and offices in 2001, the former warehouse still reflects its origins in the railroad and wholesaling economy of early twentieth-century Billings.

Exterior work includes refurbishing and restoring the existing wood double hung windows including replacement of single pane glass with new insulated glass, tuckpointing and repair of existing masonry, as well as masonry cleaning.
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