Downtown Missoula: As one hotel opens, other projects set to begin construction

With construction on the Residence Inn nearly finished, work on a second hotel will begin this spring., adding to the vibrancy and destinations in downtown Missoula.

Fresh off the opening of the Mercantile hotel in downtown Missoula, the project’s developers are looking toward spring and the groundbreaking of their second project.

HomeBase developer Andy Holloran confirmed his plans in December to construct a second hotel adjacent to the newly opened Residence Inn by Marriott. Groundbreaking on the six-story AC Hotel remains set for June.

“It’s a lifestyle brand and a perfect complement to the Residence Inn,” Holloran said. “We couldn’t be more happy and thrilled to be investing in downtown Missoula.”

The two hotel projects carry a combined price tag north of $60 million and together will employ roughly 80 people. That doesn’t include the collection of bars, restaurants and shops attached to the two projects.

While the Residence Inn opened last week, the nine commercial spaces on the ground floor will follow this spring, about when the AC Hotel begins construction.

“The next steps for the Mercantile project, we have nine tenants who are all in various stages of design and permitting,” Holloran said. “We expect all of them to open up in June, which will really add to the vibrancy of this corner.”

By then, work will begin on the AC Hotel planned for the corner of Pattee and Main streets. That project will include 105 guest rooms, a speakeasy off the alley and a rooftop bar. The hotel itself will be equipped with modern amenities inspired by the European brand.

Holloran and his development firm remain bullish on downtown Missoula.

“When we look at the demographics, the job growth, the in-migration and people’s desires and tendencies, we believe clearly that people prefer to live, work, stay and play in a downtown corridor where you can literally walk to 100 restaurants, bars, coffee shops and entertainment venues,” Holloran said.

“It’s a phenomenal recipe for success and we continue to believe in downtown Missoula. This is the start of things to come.”

The resurgence of interest in downtown Missoula isn’t lost on city officials, who have actively showcased the local offerings in hopes of bringing new investment to the community.

Just down the street, developers recently completed a $40 million student housing project. Plans are also moving forward at the Riverfront Triangle, including a conference center, hotel, housing and commercial.

Across Pattee Street, plans are also in the works to renovate and modernize the windowless Holiday Inn, including the addition of a fourth floor, according to Development Services.

“Downtown is a destination for a lot of unique reasons,” said Missoula Mayor John Engen. “A lot of people have worked a very long time to make sure downtown mattered, and now people recognize that it matters. It’s not just us cheerleading, but people willing to invest hard-earned money and bet on the future of downtown Missoula. That’s a win.”

With downtown on the map for future investment, the city is now working to update its downtown master plan. Like the last plan, it will continue to guide growth and investment with added focus on housing, parking and other topics.

While that effort evolves, Engen likes the direction the district is heading and the jobs the latest projects are creating.

“Once we knew what needed to happen here, and once they (HomeBase) made the commitment, we knew we were going to get something spectacular,” Engen said. “The fact that someone has invested a whole lot of money in Missoula and is ready to invest a whole lot more, that’s a good sign to me.”

The larger projects have driven confidence among other local business owners, including Lisa Simon and Jason Neal. The two owners of the Radius Gallery have broken ground on a new gallery to showcase the city’s contemporary art.

That project, located on Higgins Avenue, sits next door to the Residence Inn. The Radius Gallery has been enlisted to maintain the art collection displayed in the hotel’s Mews.

“It’s fantastic to see Missoula artists celebrated so publicly,” said Simon. “It’s been a year-long process and the learning curve has been tremendous. But when the goals are so asperational, you’ll just follow it anywhere. You’ll end up doing anything, working as hard as you need to, to make it happen.”