Construction set for May on downtown student housing project

Student housing project planned for 301 East Front Street in downtown Missoula.


Developers behind a $30 million student housing project planned for downtown Missoula received approval from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency this week to begin prepping the East Front Street lot for spring construction.

Farran Realty Partners is expected to request roughly $1 million in tax increment financing from MRA next month, with plans to break ground in May on a two-level parking garage with 308 spaces.

The project is located at 301 East Front Street.

“Phase one includes demolition of the remaining structures and construction of a two-level parking garage,” said Chris Behan, assistant director of MRA. “One of the floors at street level will offer 6,000 square feet of retail use.”

Phase two will see four levels of purpose-built student housing placed above the parking garage. The project will include 488 beds ranging from studios to four-room apartments.

Phase two is expected to begin next spring.

“It’s a major change for Front Street,” Behan said. “It’s the kind of thing we’ve been talking about for a long time.”

The project is one of several planned or taking place on Front Street. A team of developers from Bozeman has submitted a demolition permit for the Missoula Mercantile, with plans to construct a five-story branded hotel with ground-floor retail.

Farran Realty Partners is also working on plans to begin a $150 million redevelopment of the Riverfront Triangle. That project includes a hotel, conference center and housing.

“I sit on the Downtown Master Plan Implementation Committee, and that’s something we’ve been talking about for years – bringing more housing downtown,” said Jim McLeod, managing director of Farran Realty Partners. “(Student housing) is going to be terrific for downtown and what’s happening on Front Street.”

McLeod said other student housing projects are expected to take place in Missoula over the coming years. Current plans for the Old Sawmill District include student housing on Wyoming Street.

“I think there’s going to be other student housing projects in the future, it’s just a question of where,” McLeod said. “In Missoula, we have a lot of constraints when it comes to developable land, especially in the urban core. Parking is a big issue. This is not an inexpensive project to do.”

Of the project’s $30 million cost, an estimated $23 million is earmarked for construction. The developers will likely request roughly $1 million in tax increment financing at MRA’s monthly board meeting in April.

Behan said the agency is reviewing the request.

This week, construction crews continued adding a fourth story to the building located at 218 East Front Street. That project includes a 3,200 square-foot penthouse, according to city building permits.

downtown project
The building at 218 East Front Street is receiving a fourth story. (Photo by Martin Kidston)