By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
With a few grabs of the backhoe, the old Five Valleys Bowling Center and Lucky Strike Casino were reduced to rubble over the holiday season, clearing the way for the latest redevelopment project aimed for Missoula’s Midtown district.
Back in September, the Woodbury Corporation proposed replacing the old bowling alley and adjoining car wash with a new Les Schwab tire center and two new restaurants. It was seeking roughly $664,000 in tax increment financing from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to help cover demolition costs.
While MRA funding remains in question, Woodbury representative Kraig Erickson said the company still plans to redevelop the property, though the future tenants remain unannounced.
“We’re working on things,” Erickson said Tuesday. “There’s still some stuff that’s happening. We’re still moving forward with plans to redevelop that site.”
Woodbury is one of several developers looking to redevelop property within the Brooks Street corridor and the city’s Midtown district – a section that’s expected to undergo a slow transformation over the coming years.
Woodbury recently completed the redevelopment of the old Kmart property, replacing the dated building with the South Crossing project. That included several new retail outlets and restaurants, bringing welcome services to the city’s south side.
Nearby, Southgate Mall Associates is moving forward with plans to redevelop the mall. A new dine-in theater is under construction and future plans call for additional retail and residential construction.
Mike Haynes, director of the city’s Development Services, said with Missoula’s growth policy and long-range transportation plan now in the books, the city is looking to nudge redevelopment of the Brooks Street corridor toward something of an urban center.
Progressive Urban Management Associates, based in Denver, has just released the “Brooks Street Corridor Plan.” The firm joined Community Builders and the Missoula Midtown Association in a two-day workshop held in September to map out the future of the corridor.
“We had the early work done by (PUMA) out there,” said Haynes. “It was an early planning effort that identified tremendous opportunities for redevelopment and opportunities for transit-oriented development, particularly in concert with Mountain Line.”
While the opportunities are tempting, Haynes said the vision for Brooks presents challenges and constraints. In some areas, the limited right of way along the corridor hinders some redevelopment options, as does the triangular-shaped lots that line the roadway.
“There’s no doubt that the Brooks corridor is a redevelopment challenge, and I think that’s where the opportunities are,” said Haynes. “If you look around town at the major corridors, and you look at where there’s obvious opportunity for development and redevelopment, Brooks rises to the top of that list, at least in the urban core.”
J.J. Folsom, a planner and vice president of Progressive Urban Management Associates, said the primary recommendations from the latest study were submitted to MRA and the Missoula Midtown Association late last month.
“Some of the primary recommendations were to improve some of the major intersections in anticipation of the (Mountain Line) transit stops, with the Route 7 moving to Brooks,” said Folsom. “There’s a lot of small, short streets that intersect with Brooks, because of its diagonal nature, and we’ve proposed vacating some of those.”
The plan also calls for completing missing bicycle links, streetscape improvements, improving transit stops and breaking up “megablocks.” That includes Southgate Mall – a process that has already begun – and the Missoula County Fairgrounds.
“The Missoula County Fairgrounds site is generally impenetrable for pedestrians and cyclists,” the study notes. “One quick win recommendation is to remove the perimeter chain link fence to open up the publicly owned fairgrounds to the public.”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at email@example.com