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The Empire Parking Garage’s opening is now set for Aug. 1, a month later than previously announced.

“There is no way it’ll be ready for cars on July 1,” said assistant city administrator Bruce McCandless, who’s been shepherding the project on the city’s behalf.

The $11.5 million garage, which will include potential office, retail and restaurant space, is in the 2700 block of Montana Avenue.

The official walk-through for architects, city officials and experts hired by the city to evaluate the project, which was constructed by Sletten Construction of Great Falls, will occur July 14, McCandless said.

But it’s possible, he said, that the garage won’t be ready for a planned soft opening Aug. 1.

One bright spot for motorists: Traffic controls are scheduled to be removed next week, McCandless said.

The opening of the new structure had already been delayed by about three months following one of the most difficult winters in Billings history.

McCandless said virtually all the spaces available for lease in the new parking structure have been spoken for. With the addition of the 540 parking spaces in the Empire Garage — some will be hourly parking — the city will be able to offer about 2,100 parking spaces in four downtown structures.

The delay is the culmination of “a lot of little things,” McCandless said.

“I tried to be optimistic when Sletten told me they thought substantial completion would be June 16,” he said. “But when we slipped by that date, I wasn’t surprised. It looked like they still had a lot of work to do.”

One elevator is finished, but another is incomplete, McCandless said. He said the Billings Building Department probably would not issue a certificate of occupancy without both elevators operational.

As things now stand, “I’m 95 percent sure that we’ll do a soft opening in August” followed by a bigger celebration in September, McCandless said.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.