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City and county could begin due diligence on historic Federal Building next week

The federal building in downtown Missoula as it looked in 1913.

A review of the old Federal Building in downtown Missoula could begin as early as next week as the city and county move closer to possibly acquiring the vacant facility.

Missoula County on Tuesday approved an interlocal agreement between the two governments outlining cost share, management and other services as they gear up to begin due diligence.

“The county will be doing the financing and then bill the city for their half of the share,” said Casey Gannon with county planning. “Any cost they incur for their needs specifically will be 100% billed, and same for the county.”

The city and county have been eyeing the historic building as a potential remedy to their spatial needs now for several years. Last month, the General Services Administration deemed the building as surplus property, opening the door for the city and county to possibly acquire the building for free.

The GSA is currently going through the process of disposition, which includes screening for any public entities interested in the structure, or any program that serves to house the homeless.

“The screening for public entities and homeless assistance ends this week,” said Gannon. “We’ll know from GSA if we have the go ahead to work on our applications. We worked with A&E this week and hopefully we’ll hit the ground next week.”

City and county officials last March sent a letter to the Denver region of the Government Services Administration expressing interest in using the vacant building under what’s known as the Good Neighbor program.

Missoula’s population was 30,000 people when City Hall was built in 1969. The city population is now more than 75,000 and it’s expected to grow incrementally in the coming years.

Both the city and county are spread across several locations, paying multiple leases to satisfy their spatial needs. Securing the federal building could create a one-stop government shop and open up other downtown properties for redevelopment.

“Acquiring the federal building gives us the opportunity to preserve something really important, to fill 100,000 vacant square feet downtown, and to build synergy with the county and inter departmentally in the city,” John Adams of the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development said last week. “It’s potentially an amazing opportunity, but in order to take the next steps, we need to do due diligence.”