The General Services Administration this week deemed the old Federal Building in downtown Missoula surplus property, clearing the way for public agencies – including local governments – to submit a notice of interest in the facility.
The city and county of Missoula have already expressed their interest in possibly acquiring the facility and transforming the historic structure into a hub of government services.
“This notice is for non-federal public agencies to express interest in the building,” said Casey Gannon, the county’s strategic initiatives manager. “The city and county have a month to submit a formal letter of interest in obtaining the federal building through the historic monument disposal process.”
City and county officials last March sent a letter to the Denver region of the GSA expressing interest in using the vacant building under what’s known as the Good Neighbor program.
Under that program, the National Park Service could declare the historic property a national monument. If that occurs, local government could receive the facility for free in exchange for the property’s long-term care.
According to the notice issued Wednesday by the GSA, public agencies have roughly one month to submit a notice of interest in the building, which the city and county plan to do.
Disposal of the facility as surplus property can be made to public agencies for a wide range of uses, including education, research, public health, government, historic monument, correctional use and law enforcement, among others.
Gannon said the city and county are expected to submit a formal letter of interest in obtaining the building through the historic monument disposal process.
“The city and county would then conduct our due diligence of the building,” Gannon said. “If we choose to proceed, we will submit an application through the National Park Service, the sponsoring agency of historic monuments, for the conveyance of the building.”
The Missoula federal building opened in 1913 and served as the headquarters for the U.S. Forest Service for more than 100 years. It underwent an expansion in the 1930s and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
But the Forest Service relocated from its downtown headquarters to Fort Missoula in 2015, and since then the building has remained mostly empty. Both the city and county have set aside funding to complete due diligence ahead of any future agreement.
County commissioners have said that various county offices could be consolidated, including the commissioners’ office, Community & Planning Services, Missoula County Public Works, Risk and Benefits, and others.
Given the lack of space at the county’s current downtown location, it currently leases property around the city to house various departments. City government is in a similar situation in that it occupies multiple sites.
Local officials sent a letter to the GSA last year saying the 90,000-square-foot federal building has enough space to accommodate nearly all branches of local government, providing something of a one-stop shop for public services.