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Developer Mike Schaer, who has spearheaded the rebirth of Montana Avenue, said he is one of the investors bankrolling the renovation of the Tracy building at North 26th Street by the railroad tracks.

The vacant building, which sports an exterior “Gamble Robinson” sign, will be turned into 19 apartments.

Randy Hafer, who owns High Plains Architects, will spend more than $1 million remodeling the Tracy, Schaer said. Construction will start soon and take about a year.

“The revitalization of Montana Avenue is more than just 26th to 23rd (Street),” Schaer said. “If we can expand it further west, that’s a benefit for everybody.”

Plans to build a half-block parking garage on the avenue from north 27th to 28th streets and completion of the Northern Hotel renovation also are important to this business district, he said.

Negotiations to buy the Tracy building took two years, Schaer said, saying that Montana Rail Link was good to work with, but not the big railroad.

“The bureaucracy of Burlington Northern is worse than dealing with the federal government because you can’t get your arms around anybody,” he said.

Unlike Neal LaFever, who bought the land underneath the Westwood building from BNSF, the Tracy building comes with a rolling 15-year land lease.

“That’s interesting. He actually bought the land,” Schaer said. “I don’t know how he did that.”

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