While the city and county of Missoula look to the downtown federal building to meet their spatial needs, the city’s public works department also plans to address its own constraints as the city grows and the demand for services increase.
Consolidation is key, and 27 acres of city-owned property off Scott Street may suit the department for decades to come.
“Missoula is growing fast, and it’s putting pressure on the services we provide,” said Jeremy Keene, director of public works. “We’re looking to be progressive in how we respond. We wanted to look at how we might consolidate for more efficiency, and how we might respond to growth.”
Public Works and Mobility is currently scattered across five different locations in Missoula, and consolidating into a single location would improve efficiency while opening other properties for redevelopment.
The city purchased portions of the Scott Street property last year, and while the majority of the lot is going toward housing and commercial needs, a smaller portion was retained for public works.
That piece will be combined with the former White Pine Sash property, where the city plans to build a new administrative building for public works and other departments. The site would also house street maintenance, utilities, and vehicle storage and repair.
While the plans remain a work in progress, the city is working closely with Ravara Development LLC – the adjacent housing development – to find areas where the two projects can be planned in coordination.
“One of our biggest challenges as they’re developing the Ravara property is how we balance all the regulatory issues around parking, green space and wanting to maximize housing,” said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan. “This whole public works complex gives us an opportunity to be creative in terms of how these two projects together get some synergy, especially around parking. It really presents some opportunities we don’t usually have.”
Ravara plans to use around 6 acres for workforce housing and 3 acres for permanently affordable housing. Other housing projects are also unfolding in the area, which will soon have thousands of new residents.
Combined with the future plans for public works, traffic and transportation remains one of the primary concerns. The Scott Street area is current constrained by access in and out of the neighborhood.
“Getting across the railroad with another crossing isn’t realistic for us to do any time soon,” said Keene. “But a new connection to the interstate is something that’s more achievable and would alleviate a lot of that truck traffic. It’s something we’re prioritizing, that new interchange at Coal Mine Road.”
A master plan completed for the North Reserve-Scott Street area in 2014 detailed a number of new roads. One of them, a new connector road skirting the railroad tracks, will cross the property owned by public works, and it will eventually connect to I-90 at a new interchange.
Keene said the transportation grid is a key piece of public works’ ongoing plans for its new facility.
“Access to this area is one of the major constraints, and we’re going to have to deal with transportation and access,” he said. “I wold like to see those roads become a near-term priority. We don’t have all the right-of-way we need up to the interstate yet, but this (new connector road) would be a good start.”