Butte opens bids for vaulted sidewalk restoration project


BUTTE, Mont. - Butte-Silver Bow's Council of Commissioners will open bids Wednesday night for the next phase of the vaulted sidewalk restoration project.

Vaulted sidewalks are spaces below the public sidewalk that connect to a store or space below ground level.

Butte-Silver Bow plans to reconstruct another four or five vaults in this phase. That would bring the total number of restored spaces to 19.

City officials said some store owners choose restoration but others fill in the space for a sturdier sidewalk.

"We have put out a invitation to bid on these vaults so we're looking for a local contractor to respond to that bid and hopefully we'll get them hired on and get those vaults reconstructed in this next year," said Community Development Director Karen Byrnes.

Butte's vaulted sidewalks are part of the town's rich history and something many residents value.

Wilhelm's Flower Shop has a vaulted sidewalk. There are spaces underground that attach to the store.

"We utilize every inch of our vaulted sidewalk," said Wilhelm's designer Linda Foster.

Foster led NBC Montana underground. Her shop is on the corner of Montana and Broadway in Uptown Butte.

"If we don't get them done, they're just going to deteriorate," said Foster. "So we are very excited that they're going to be redone so that we can use them to the full potential."

Foster showed us why her vaults need rebuilt -- crumbly, leaky concrete can been seen on the ceilings and floors.

The five large spaces are useful for storage and they're part of the Mining City's history. Foster wants to make sure it's preserved for the future.

"The ladies here were in agreement that we wanted those vaults to be left like they are. Reinforce, make safer -- that's fine," said Foster.

Down the street, Broadway Antiques owner Laura Sargent pointed to where the city repaired her vaulted sidewalks last summer.

"They did some repair work with the granite blocks on one part of the wall," said Sargent. "They laid a cement slab in the floor of the vault and then they covered it off with the top of the sidewalk that you see right out here."

Sargent said the construction was a headache, but worth it.

"I think it was for the storage and I think it was to maintain the integrity of the building and keep it like it was originally meant to be," she said.

Foster said that's what she wants from Wilhelm's restoration as well, and appreciates the city for its hard work.

"We're just really happy they're doing this," said Foster.

The total estimated cost to fix all the vaults in this phase of construction is around $300,000. The city doesn't pick up the entire cost of the restoration. Owners are responsible for 10 percent.