Asbestos removal from the former James F. Battin Federal Courthouse in downtown Billings has begun, signaling a fresh start for the prominent five-story structure that has sat empty for several years.
A contest to rename the building also is underway.
Quentin Eggart, president of EEC, the Billings firm managing the renovations, said Monday the asbestos removal started a few weeks ago and should be finished in six to eight months.
A crew of about 50 “skilled and certified workers” is performing the removal work, Eggart said. Asbestos is in large portions of the building material on each floor.
The company doing the work is Spray Systems of Arizona, whose owners have Montana roots, he said.
Building renovations, both internal and external, also will be done as floors are cleared of asbestos, he said.
The estimated cost of $4 million to remove the cancer-causing material commonly found in older buildings is more than the $3.2 million the new owner paid to buy the building.
But the cost of abating the asbestos is about one third less than the $10 million to $16 million preliminary estimate given to the federal government when the building first became available for sale, Eggart said.
“We have not applied for any financial help from anyone for removal of asbestos,” Eggart said.
He called the $4 million to remove asbestos “very reasonable.”
The building’s owner has “paid 100 percent cash for everything. There’s no bank loan on the property,” Eggart said.
WC Commercial LLC, an Alaska company, bought the total indebtedness on the building, located at 316 N. 26th St., in July at a foreclosure sale. The company was the only bidder.
Owner Joe Holden said in a news release, “We are excited to begin the process of bringing this building back to life in downtown Billings.” He also thanked Big Sky Economic Development and the city of Billings for their support.
WC earlier announced plans to remove the asbestos and remodel the building into quality office space. The 50-year-old building has about 213,000 square feet of space and underground parking.