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Four organizations hope to take over Story Mansion

By Jordan Moore, KTVM Reporter, jmoore@ktvm.com
Published On: Nov 07 2013 11:03:01 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 08 2013 01:15:34 AM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Four very different organizations are hoping to take over the historic Story Mansion. City commissioners will look at the proposals next week.

The Bozeman Art Museum is behind one of those proposals, and is looking to turn the mansion into a fine arts museum. The Montana Center for Civic Engagement wants to use the building for several purposes, including civics and history education. The Story Mansion Inn Group would transform the building into a historic inn. Finally, the Tree of Life Ministries is proposing the mansion become a space for classrooms and offices.

We spoke to commissioner Chris Mehl who tells us this is an issue the city has been dealing with for years. This time around, they are looking for a long-term solution.

"The best case scenario is that whatever decision we make is long lasting and it works," said Mehl.

Each proposal also comes with a very different price tag. The Bozeman Art Museum is proposing two purchase options -- either have the city gift the mansion to them, or it also says they are willing to pay $400,000.

The Montana Center for Civic Engagement has a similar proposal, $400,000 on a gifting purchase contract. The proposal states, "Foundation funding would anchor the Story Mansion property in public ownership with a payment to the City of Bozeman and a deposit of the title with the Montana History Foundation to be held in trust for the City of Bozeman."

The Story Mansion Inn Group is willing to offer as much as $900,000 to transform the building into a historic inn.

The final offer on the table comes from the Tree of Life Ministries, a religious nonprofit organization. In the proposal they are willing to offer fair market value for the mansion, at more than $2 million.

Mehl tells us that the price tag is not the only thing they are taking into consideration.

"Some applications are from nonprofits and some others are not, so that is part of the consideration. How much they offer, whether they comply with the local zoning ordinances, long-term viability and things like that," said Mehl.

We spoke to people in downtown Bozeman who seem to have ideas as diverse as the proposals themselves.

"I think a bed and breakfast or a museum type thing would be cool," said Elsa Sveen.

"I think I would like to see it go to the university," said Nick Live.

"Having a fine arts museum would be a wonderful tourist attraction to offer plenty of things for locals as well," said Adele Lassiter.

When we asked Mehl about what he wants to see, he tells us it is too early to make that call.

"I have read a lot of the material, but I need more information, and straight from the horse's mouth, but also hear from the public," said Mehl.

We also asked Mehl how this could impact the city financially.

"It is paying for itself on a year in, year out basis, but it is on the books as a long-time liability so to speak," said Mehl.

That's why city leaders are hoping one of the proposals will fit the bill.

Mehl said the proposals will be discussed at next week's city commission meeting. Although he says they may not have a decision by the end of the night, the commission plans to make a decision by the end of the year.