Residential, commercial building permits strong in first quarter

Crews continue working on the new AMC dine-in theater at Southgate Mall in Missoula, one of may large projects permitted last year. Permits issued through the first quarter of 2017 remain strong, and they’re expected to grow in the months ahead. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Development activity over the first four months of 2017 remains in line with the same period last year, with 453 building permits issued across the city of Missoula for a value of $54.9 million, city records indicate.

Unlike last year’s record, however, this year’s increase has been driven largely by an uptick in residential permits, including both single- and multi-family homes. Commercial activity remains strong, though no single large project has come up for review, though that will change in the coming months.

“We’re seeing a lot of development activity across the board, from residential to commercial to institutional,” said Mike Haynes, director of Development Services. “We’ve had a good level of development plans come through the system, just no large projects to this point. But there’s plenty on the horizon.”

Last year’s figures over the first four months, which saw 441 permits issued for a value of $58.9 million, were driven in part by the permitting of Stockman Bank. That $16.2 million project is currently under construction on the corner of Orange Street and West Broadway.

In the coming months, it’s likely that several large projects will seek permits, including the Marriott Hotel planned for the old Mercantile site, and the 54-unit U-Global student housing project in the Old Sawmill District.

The U-Global student housing project planned in the Old Sawmill District is slated to begin construction in late May or early June and is currently awaiting a permit. The -project will include 218 beds in 54 units off Wyoming Street. (Image courtesy of Old Sawmill District)

“It’s in for a permit right now, and we’ll be starting construction in late May or early June,” said Leslie Wetherbee, a realtor with Windermere and a partner in the Sawmill development. “We’re also starting on Polley’s Square D, and they’ll be sending that in for a permit next month.”

Wetherbee said several other projects planned for the district will get permitted in the next few months and undergo construction by the end of the year, including the Sawmill Grill. All told, the projects are valued at more than $50 million and will boost this years citywide valuation figures.

“We’ll be starting on the Sawmill Grill, and that’s in the design phase right now,” Wetherbee said. “It’ll be permitted in a few months, and we expect to be under construction by late summer or early fall. We’re also working on the health and wellness building. It’s in design and we expect that to start later this year.”

Other commercial projects planned elsewhere in Missoula are under review. They include a new Les Schwab Tire Center planned for the former Lucky Strike property on Brooks Street, and a 30,000-square-foot commercial project planned by Garden City Plumbing and Heating on property recently considered by Costco on West Broadway.

An addition to Hellgate High School is expected this year, Haynes said, and a large commercial project is planned on Palmer Street.

“Those are the kind of projects that really move the needle,” said Haynes. “The next couple of months will be pretty active. This is the time of year where we’re at our busiest, though last year, the third quarter went crazy.”

On the housing front, the city has issued 202 single family permits this year valued at more than $20 million. That’s compared to 143 permits issued over the first four months of 2016, valued at $14.7 million.

As many as 557 multi-family permits have also been issued this fiscal year, carrying a combined value of more than $30 million. Over the same period last year, 86 permits had been issued for $3.6 million.

“On the housing side, the demand is there for sure,” said Haynes. “We had a banner year for residential last year with 775 units. I would expect we may well be close to that again this year, and we’ll see more single family this year than we did last year.”

Much of the larger residential activity has been focused around Flynn Lane and Linda Vista in the South Hills, and most of the subdivisions now seeing activity were platted and approved years ago.

“We’re seeing a lot of single-family development in already platted and approved subdivisions,” Haynes said. “Residential continues to be strong. We’ve got some multi-family in review right now.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at