The renovations taking place at Southgate Mall will soon include Lucky’s Market, a national grocery chain that announced its intention to open in Missoula earlier this year.
On Thursday, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency approved $50,000 in tax increment financing to help the developers complete renovations on a portion of the old Sears building, which Lucky’s will occupy when it opens next year.
“What they’re proposing to do with this project exceeds what Lucky’s would require before they locate to this building,” said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan. “It’s a cornerstone project and will set the tone for other renovations at the mall.”
The $50,000 approved by MRA is the maximum amount authorized under the agency’s facade improvement program. The funding will go toward the $1 million cost of renovating the facade on the building’s northern half.
The total renovation carries a cost of roughly $5 million and, once finished, will convert the dated building to a pedestrian-friendly storefront complete with windows and outdoor seating.
“All of these elements are important as we try to create a more pedestrian environment out there and a sense of place,” Buchanan said. “What we have right now is a monolithic facade that adds very little in the way of articulation or transparency or scale.”
Peter Lambros with Southgate Mall Associates announced his company’s intention to launch a $75 million redevelopment of the property back in 2015.
The project has a number of goals, but looks to turn the mall “inside-out,” moving away from the closed confines of the building’s interior to make it more accessible and vibrant from the outside.
Over time, other projects will follow, creating a Midtown village complete with retail, dining and residential opportunities. Addressing the Sears building is a step in that direction.
“It really is one of the benefits the facade improvement program was intended for,” said Ruth Reineking, a member of the MRA board of commissioners.
Already, a new AMC dine-in theater is under construction at the mall and is expected to open this winter. Construction of Mary Avenue from Brooks Street to South Reserve also is expected to open in October, creating a new Midtown connector.
MRA, which has helped fund both projects, believes the mall will set the stage for the future of the Brooks Street corridor, which is primed for redevelopment. Several plans are currently in the works, each calling for greater densities and uses, including residential opportunities.
The goal looks to transform the corridor from one dominated by automobiles to a more connected and pedestrian environment.
“It’s the intention of Southgate Mall Associates to transform the inward-facing mall into a vibrant, outward-facing retail center that provides goods and services, and connects to the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Buchanan.
Lucky’s Market promotes itself as a specialty grocery chain that features natural, organic and locally grown products.
The stores are noted for their juice bars and bulk foods, along with apothecaries, cafes, and beer and wine selection. They also offer a “sip ‘n stroll,” providing customers a $2 pint of local beer or a $3 glass of wine to enhance the shopping experience.
The business is expected to create 60 new jobs.