• Civic + Cultural
  • Flathead County Courthouse North Complex Facilities Renovation and Expansion
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Flathead County Courthouse North Complex Facilities Renovation and Expansion

The Flathead County North complex in Kalispell, Montana, was a project born of a growing population’s need. Due to the high cost of building new, Cushing Terrell’s design team was tasked with repurposing a building that previously housed a telecommunications company. Within that structure, we designed a complex to host the Flathead County Treasurer, Superintendent of Schools, Family Court Services, and the Flathead County Elections Department. The approximately year-long construction project transformed the 18,700-sq. ft. building to a space that could better serve the county and improve the customer experience, while freeing up space near the original county courts for those services to expand. Plus, reusing an existing building kept the project cost-effective and efficient. 

The retrofit was tricky; the building was originally designed to be utilitarian, with concrete block walls and few windows. The ceilings in particular proved to be a challenge as the existing structural roof panel system wasn’t easily modified. The team got creative with the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, and one such solution was to build an insulated “sky donut” on the roof to house a main branch of ductwork.

The building’s anchor tenant, the DMV, sees many customers moving through its doors each day. The main building entrance was moved closer to a parking lot so visitors and workers could more comfortably park and enter the building without crossing a busy main street. This was also then designed to function as the central entrance for most of the departments within the building to keep it secure, with a separate, private entrance for family court services. 

Because this would be both a daily workplace for county employees and a place where many visitors would cycle through, the space was designed to feel more friendly and vibrant. For the DMV, that meant enhanced daylight and sight lines, with plenty of transaction windows and a big waiting room. The space for elections is also fluid and multifunctional to accommodate the occasional influx of voters and machines — all while maintaining security. And the entire building is designed to allow for a steady flow of foot traffic.

The complex is located at one of the busiest intersections in Kalispell, MT. As such, we aimed for simplicity in our exterior design. We mimicked the color palette of other county buildings in Kalispell, with cream-colored brick and bronze trim. We also wanted to ensure there was an elegance to the building’s low structure without making it look short and squat. To address this, we studied Prairie Style architecture as inspiration. This style often utilizes wood in its design, but we wanted the building to be easily maintained. Hence the design adopted a cement board panel that has the warmth, look, and character of wood but requires far less maintenance. Additional pops of green landscaping, including in some of the building recesses, were also added.

The final product breathes new life and vibrancy into the old building, making it something beautiful that the community can be proud of.

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