Construction at the Armory approaches completion Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in downtown Bozeman.

The city of Bozeman's design review board Wednesday OK'd a new floor but denied other changes to the Etha, a downtown hotel and convention center that has been under construction since 2014.

The board voted 3-1 to recommend the city manager deny an application regarding the moving of mechanical rooftop units for air conditioning and heat, the addition of lights on the exterior of the building, a change in the exterior building materials and changes to the windows.

The board also voted unanimously to recommend approval of the addition of another floor, more hotel rooms and other small changes. 

Cory Lawrence, the owner of the project, said he and his team submitted plans to the building department dealing with the changes in 2015 and were issued a building permit from the building department. However, those designs were not reviewed and approved by the planning department before approval by the building department.

“If you compare 2015 to 2019, there would be very little change,” Lawrence said. “To be told now that we aren’t compliant, that our Etha doesn’t make it, is more than disheartening.”

The modifications were submitted in September 2019 in two phases — phase one for the additional floor and rooms, phase two for the lights, exterior building materials and air conditioning and heating units.

Development review manager Brian Krueger presented a staff report Wednesday to the design review board with staff recommendations to approve phase one with an exception and deny phase two.

"Many of these changes, due to what has occurred, are after the fact," said Krueger. "We have not reviewed them previously." 

Much of the confusion came from the differences between a planning department approval and a building department approval. The Etha was approved by the planning department in 2013, then by the building department in 2015. It's unclear what the communication between the two departments was in 2013 or in 2015. 

The approved modifications include: the addition of 19 hotel rooms, bringing the total to 121 rooms; the addition of a bar and the retention of an existing stage in a ballroom; the removal of stairs and an outdoor terrace and addition of mechanical units on the second floor of the historic armory building, where the pool was originally planned; a new ninth floor and the relocation of the pool to the ninth floor.

The additional floor will bring the Etha to nine stories, the tallest building in Bozeman. However, it remains under 110 feet tall, the original deviation granted by the city.

The denied modifications include: lights on the exterior of the building; the finish of the exterior of the building and changes in the windows. 

Melissa Loveridge can be reached at or at (406) 582-2651. 

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