The newest addition to downtown Missoula opened its doors on Wednesday evening, marking the district’s growth and its transition from parking lots to public gathering.
Years the making, the $25 million AC Hotel brings a European brand to the city with a Montana twist. The project is geared toward business travelers and includes a number of public amenities, including the well-appointed AC Lounge and a future rooftop bar expected to open this summer.
“We strongly believe in Missoula, particularly downtown,” said Andy Holloran of HomeBase Partners. “Watching the impact the Mercantile had, bringing people downtown, the activity and business, this really compliments that. It’s just a gathering spot for people.”
The new six-story hotel at Pattee and Main marks the latest investment to land in the district. Two years ago, the Residence Inn opened next door, representing its own investment of $40 million.
More recently, Conflux Brewing Co. opened its restaurant and bar across the street, and construction continues on the Wren, a new hotel and retail space expected to open later this year.
“We’re looking forward to the Wren coming online next door,” Holloran said. “We’re really emphasizing this part of downtown as the epicenter.”
The new Missoula Public Library represents a public investment of $35 million, and a new student housing facility and retail center was completed in 2019 on Front Street for around $38 million.
Add it up and the projects, all completed within the last three years, ring in at more than $150 million – all built east of Higgins Avenue. Together they help extend the footprint of downtown Missoula and maintain the district as a hub of activity.
Holleran and other developers remain bullish on Missoula.
“We see a lot of fundamentals that are hard to argue,” Holloran said. “We see an investment in our airport, which is going to be incredible. We see a solid university. We have incredible access to outdoor amenities, a diverse workforce and a great hospital network. Those are fundamentals everyone looks for. Missoula is at the top of the list.”
Both the AC Hotel and Residence Inn were financed by Stockman Bank of Missoula. Bob Burns, president of the Missoula branch, said the investment by HomeBase in the downtown district has drawn interest from others considering an investment of their own.
“Development is contagious with surrounding property owners wanting to provide a lift to their façade or building,” Burns said. “It adds a good number of jobs to Missoula, which is critically important to us. Missoula is on the map for both in-state and out-of-state developers who see the city as an up-and-coming regional center for the western part of the U.S.”
The AC Hotel includes a high-end design with art curated by the Radius Gallery and a warm lobby with its fireplace and AC Lounge. The new property employs around 50 people while the Residence Inn, with its nine businesses on the ground floor, employs around 200 people.
“The hiring at the AC has been exceptional,” Holloran said. “The quality of people and enthusiasm has been really fantastic.”