Renovations have started on an approximately $450,000 project to overhaul the east-side parking lot of the Gateway Community Center in Kalispell.

The Flathead County Economic Development Authority is working with TTEC, the Westside Center for Community Change, Glacier Bank and Montana West Economic Development to complete the rehabilitation of the 54,000-square-foot lot.

“The east-side parking lot has been in a bad state for quite some time,” FCEDA President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Meerkatz said.

“We’re concerned about our employees,” he added. He said FCEDA owns 35% of the Gateway Community Center building and rents it out to TTEC for its call center.

Since FCEDA only owns a portion of the building itself, it is not responsible for maintenance of common areas such as the parking lot. But Meerkatz said the economic development authority wants “to provide a safer, more secure place for TTEC,” which employs 350 people in its call center.

He reported there has been a lot of “trouble removing snow and ice” in the east-side parking lot and, consequently, numerous “slips and falls” in the winter months. This “resulted in a lot of claims,” he said.

TTEC Site Manager Chris Hardy said he expects the parking lot renovations to “greatly improve the safety for TTEC employees.” In particular, he said the project should help TTEC employees be “able to access the TTEC entry safely.”

In order to reach this goal, Hardy said the lot “needs to be revamped completely.”

Meerkatz agreed the project will “completely renovate and rebuild” the parking lot.

He said construction began in late Sept., and the contractor, Knife River Corp., is “tearing up the whole east-side parking lot.”

The improvements will take out and replace all of the existing asphalt, as well as add curb, sidewalk, landscaping and striping. Knife River also will repair the drainage in the parking lot, which was a key contributor to the dangerous buildup of snow and ice during past winters. Meerkatz said the project will bring “it all up to standards” according to the Kalispell city code.

He expects the renovation to be completed by mid-November.

The safety concerns have been a longtime problem for those who use that parking lot. Hardy said the improvement project is finally underway because “it needed to be done before the snow flies.”

The current project will not include any repairs on the west or north parking lots that serve the various nonprofits headquartered in the Gateway Community Center. But Sherry Stevens, director of the Northwest Montana United Way, said, “the Gateway Community Center is in the process of working with the city of Kalispell to develop a long-term plan to improve parking lots over the next several years on the west and south side of the facility.”

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at or 758-4459.