Columbia Falls School District 6 is set to move forward with a proposal from developer Mick Ruis to turn the old Columbia Falls high school into senior housing.
Ruis envisions a multigenerational facility with housing for the elderly. He said he wanted to use the school’s gyms for his Ruis Wrestling Academy, which has more than 50 young wrestlers, including girls, in its ranks.
Ruis was the only developer to submit a proposal for the school. He offered the district $ 550,000 for the building.
“The Ruis team has a vision of intergenerational interaction between seniors, children and young adults in the community as well as revitalizing an existing structure in Columbia Falls as the community grows and flourishes,” said Ruis in his candidacy for the school district. Superintendent Dave Wick told the board of trustees at last week’s meeting that the district set aside $ 1.3 million of the district’s $ 37 million bond to demolish the old high school – nearly of which half was for asbestos removal alone.
The next step in the process is to have a formal school survey done and work on the property covenants.
Board member Larry Wilson asked if the purchase price could be used to reduce the amount of the bond, which is being used to build a new Glacier Gateway school and to renovate the Ruder Elementary School.
District Clerk Dustin Zuffelato noted that the funds would likely be better used for the high school, which needs heating and cooling improvements. The high school was built in 1959. The old college, according to the Ruis plan, would have around thirty units. Today the school is still used for elementary classes. If the board approves the final project, Ruis said he would get funding immediately.
He has already completed several projects in Columbia Falls, including condos on Nucleus Avenue and Glacier Courtyards on Fifth Street. He also built the Cedar Creek Lodge and is working on a project for more housing and commercial space in the Town Square.
The city has also just approved a 102-unit housing project on Meadow Lake Boulevard to be built by Ruis.
In Kalispell, he is transforming old silos into a restaurant and housing complex, and he has also completed housing and commercial projects in Whitefish.
In California, he also carried out a few housing projects.