New Feasibility Study On Historic Grain Elevator Reuse Now Underway
March 4, 2020 | View PDF
Livingston, MT – The Montana Preservation Alliance has received a sizable grant from the 1772 Foundation based in Providence, RI, to complete a study of possible business models for the Teslow Grain Elevator.
After a windstorm caused severe damage to this local landmark back in 2016, the owner did not have funds to repair the building; they ultimately sold to a contractor who purchased with the intent to raze the structure.
Undaunted, the grassroots Teslow Preservation Group (TPG) boldly formed overnight and began the “Save the Teslow” campaign in the 11th hour. In just a few short months, they were able to raise more than $120,000 to purchase and repair the historic building. This garnered attention from preservationists and history lovers across the state, including the Montana Historical Society who awarded the TPG a prestigious state historic preservation award for “outstanding historic preservation advocacy.”
The TPG partnered with the Montana Preservation Alliance (MPA) in 2018 to assess the elevator’s condition and to study potential new uses for the building. In December, the MPA completed a Phase I Feasibility Report, which found the elevator to be a sturdy structure in sound condition for reuse. With the new grant allocated by the 1772 Foundation, the MPA will take a more in-depth look at alternative uses that include a craft distillery, climbing/retail sports, art studios, vertical gardening, and a farm-to-school program.
This project gives hope not only to the Teslow in Livingston, but also to grain elevators across the West. Hundreds of these once vital buildings have been vacated and now continue to fall into disrepair. With a bit more research into the structural and economic potential of grain elevators, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. According to 1772 Foundation Executive Director, Mary Anthony, “Active real estate intervention of the kind practiced by historic properties redevelopment funds is critically important to historic preservation and, by extension, economic revitalization, neighborhood development, equitable housing, and Smart Growth. The entrepreneurial approach greatly increases the number of historic buildings saved, often as adaptive reuse projects.”
The upcoming Phase 2 Feasibility Study conducted over the course of 2020 by the MPA will include a regional survey of similar properties and a targeted outreach campaign to current and potential partners. Because grain elevators were historically built following standardized plans, the intention is to analyze the structure and present the information in a way that is applicable to elevators elsewhere. MPA hopes to frame the national scope of the problem and look at how to create a model for vacant elevators throughout the region.
Grain elevators are being lost at an alarming rate across the Great Plains and Canadian Prairies, rendered obsolete by changes in grain storage and shipping technologies. There once were thousands of elevators rising tall against the skyline, tying communities to their agricultural producers. The MPA believes these icons of agricultural history should not be lost without urgent efforts to find another path. This issue has raised concern for over two decades, and yet few solutions have emerged. Through this project, the MPA and TPG, in partnership with the 1772 Foundation, are eager to help solve this puzzle and submit workable solutions for redevelopment of the Teslow Grain Elevator in Livingston and elevators across the continent.
For more information about the Montana Preservation Alliance and their work to protect historic buildings, traditional landscapes, and cultural heritage visit PreserveMontana.org.