Radius Gallery developers set to begin new project in downtown Missoula

A team of developers plan to redevelop the property at 124 N. Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula in the vein of the old RH McKay Art Co., which once sat at 120 N. Higgins before it was destroyed by fire. The same development team built the Radius Gallery on the property where the art company was located in this photo, and will use its style in their new project.

The developers of the new Radius Gallery in downtown Missoula plan to begin a new project on same block, this time turning their attention from modern to something with a vintage appeal.

The building, located on 124 N. Higgins, is currently home to the M Store. However, the lease expires this month and the property’s new owners want to begin work this year.

“Our intention is not to be as bold as we were at 120 N. Higgins and take everything down to the foundation. This building has better bones,” said property owner Brian Sippy. “We hope to increase the attractiveness of the façade and get rid of that dark, 1970s hole, and bring more of a storefront forward.”

The M Store has occupied the dated building for years, though the business ran into challenges when the University of Montana football team canceled its 2020 season due to the pandemic.

Sippy said he and his wife, Karen, were able to work with the business by purchasing the building, which basically infused the M Store with needed cash. When the Griz announced their intention to play this football season, the M Store was able to extend its lease to the end of the month.

“It’s helped them heal their business to a point where it’s been purchased,” said Sippy. “The company that’s going to buy the business has identified a place downtown or near downtown to house the M Store.”

With the M Store planning to relocate, the Sippy’s now plan to redevelop the property. While they did the same at 120 N. Higgins two years ago by erecting a modern glass and steel building, they plan to take a different approach to the property at 124 N. Higgins.

This time, Sippy said, they’ll be looking to the past and working with architects at MMW for the design.

“We’ve found some of the old images of the 1920s and 19030s façade of 120 N. Higgins – the old RH McKay Art Co. Since it was destroyed by fire and wasn’t rebuilt, we’re going to take that façade next door.”

The result will give the property a plate glass storefront façade and masonry finishes “in the ilk of the Old Post and that type of timeline.” The project has already been approved by the city and its design excellence review.

“We plan to take the building over on Dec. 1,” Sippy said. “We’d like to start our deconstruction immediately because of supply chain and worker issues.”

The developers plan to request assistance from the city’s Tax Increment Finance program to cover some aspects of the project, such as deconstruction, which the program is permitted to fund under Montana state law.

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency on Thursday agreed to allow the project to proceed ahead of an official request for tax increment. That request is expected next month or in January, and the amount remains undetermined.

“There’s no guarantee that by approving this without prejudice that the project itself will be funded,” said MRA board member Ruth Reineking. However, the board added, the developers’ track record shines favorably on their request.