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Wanted: Tenant to occupy rooftop bar; apply at The Florence

David Bell, president and CEO of the Alps Corporation, which owns the Florence on Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula, plans to launch a multi-million renovation of the building’s sixth and seventh floors, and open a rooftop bar if a tenant can be found. Bell is pictured on the building’s roof. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Fresh off an exterior renovation that saw new paint and the installation of decorative lights, the owners of the Florence Building plan to launch a major renovation of the top two floors, along with other improvements to the second floor.

If all goes as planned, the owners may also build and open a bar and restaurant on the structure’s roof, one that would serve as the “eighth floor” and offer sweeping views of the city’s growing skyline. That, however, will require a restaurateur willing to occupy such lofty digs.

David Bell, president and CEO of the Alps Corporation, which owns the Florence on Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula, embarked on an exterior facelift last year, giving the building’s facade a fresh and modern update.

With that project now complete, Bell said, plans are in the works to launch a multi-million dollar renovation of several interior floors.

“The sixth and seventh floor are being demolished down to the exterior shell and redone,” Bell said this week. “That includes renovations on the second floor, with shower and locker facilities installed as a building amenity.”

The first iteration of the Florence was constructed as a hotel at the same Higgins Avenue location in 1888, though a fire burned it down in 1913. Its replacement burned as well in 1936.

The current building dates to 1941 and still bears the name Florence – wife of A.B. Hammond who built the first hotel in 1888. The ALPS Corporation has owned the building for more than a decade now and has already made significant investments to restore the lobby to its original look.

The historic Florence got a fresh coat of paint last year. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

During a tour of the updates last year, Bell mentioned his intention – secret at the time – that would bring a bar and restaurant to the building’s roof. When the structure was built, the owners had intended to add additional floors, though they ran out of funding.

“Because of this, the structural integrity of the roof is already prepared for a bar and restaurant, or more floors,” Bell said. “What we don’t have yet is a bar and restaurant, or a partner or tenant.”

Bell said they’re currently looking for one.

“The time will approach where if we don’t have a restaurant partner secured in the planning process, we will need to move on without including that concept in the renovations,” he said. “That would be a big missed opportunity for us and Missoula.”

If a tenant can’t be found to lease a rooftop bar and restaurant, Bell said the owners will likely install a deck for Alps. The company plans to move to the top two floors once construction is complete.

“Obviously, a rooftop restaurant and bar on top of the Florence would be the most amazing 360 degree views in western Montana,” Bell said. “If we don’t secure a bar and restaurant tenant by the time the planning process gets to that point, I will likely put a deck up there for ALPS.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com