What to do with the Hettinger Armory? Marketing and feasibility study performed to explore options

What to do with the armory in Hettinger?

That’s the question city officials will be trying to answer as they gather the necessary information.

The Hettinger Armory is hosted many events since the National Guard moved out. But a more permanent solution still needs to be determined. (PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | Adams County Record)
The Hettinger Armory is hosted many events since the National Guard moved out. But a more permanent solution still needs to be determined. (PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | Adams County Record)

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

What to do with the armory in Hettinger?

That’s the question city officials will be trying to answer as they gather the necessary information.

In the past, armories were a vital part of small communities around the state. They were originally established to support local individuals that wanted to join the National Guard.

As time went on armories evolved and changed for different purposes. Some grew with more concentrated training specialties, some consolidated and some closed all together.

The National Guard has not been operating in the Hettinger Armory for the past decade, and since they moved out, the facility has been in limbo.

Last year a grant was awarded to provide funding to evaluate the situation.

In 2008 the city did a similar marketing and feasibility study, but didn’t proceed forward at the time.

Playing a primary role in the evaluation process this time is Melana Howe, owner and operator of Howe Enterprise LLC.

The evaluation was laid out in three phases.

The first phase occurred in November of 2014 and consisted of an engineering assessment of the current state of the building. The assessment came back with a dollar amount of $1.2 million to completely update the building.

Howe said that number includes ‘everything under the sun’ and could be cut down significantly.

The second phase of the process finished as recently as this past July. Towards the end of June, Howe published a survey for the public, asking questions about what they would like to see, and how they might want the armory to be used.

Also as a part of the second phase Howe formed focus groups to discuss the building.

The third and final phase of the evaluation process involves the city. Howe was scheduled to present her findings at the September city council meeting and they would utilize that information to determine the next steps. Though Howe said it is too early in the process to determine any kind of timeline for such decision.

Howe said one of her suggestions would be to market the facility, and create a central contact entity where community members could reach to for more information.

Many of the people she spoke with did know what events were taking place at the armory, but many didn’t know it could be a multi-purpose facility.

“Most of the individuals knew what’s going on in the armory, however, a large percentage of them did not know that the armory could be used for other purposes other than what’s already there,” Howe said.

Howe also reached out to other communities and asked them what they utilize their old armories for. Many hosted school functions, community gatherings, but some are left empty.

Through the information she gathered, Howe said Hettinger’s armory is unique in four ways: It is in compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) in that the entrance has no stairs and features a slow incline ramp to the doorway, and it is only one story. The building has a workable kitchen on the main floor (many have basement kitchens). The building as a whole is much more ADA compliant and has more spaces for businesses to rent out. And lastly, the building could be updated and ready for business with some minimal, cosmetic updates.

In Howe’s professional opinion, they should make some spaces available for rent and market them. That way, the armory can generate revenue for future, larger projects.

So how would the improvements, or revitalizations be paid for?

Howe said there are many avenues that can be explored for funding, including grants. Another option could be utilizing sales tax benefits, an option that Howe said was popular among the focus groups she talked to.

“It was unanimous, those that participated from the community said they would support a sales tax,” Howe said.

A move like that would require further discussion among the city council, but utilizing a sales tax option is required to qualify for many types of grants available.

The next move in the process is still uncertain, but Howe thinks that the city is ready to make a move going forward, and thinks it can work.

“I think this will work,” Howe said. “It’s a matter of taking all the bits and pieces and maximizing everything you can maximize.”







GAMES