Despite the lingering effects of Covid, downtown Missoula logged more than $38 million in commercial investment in 2021 and saw two new businesses open for every business that closed.
The Downtown Missoula Partnership released its year-end figures this week and described 2021 as a robust year with new commercial development and renovations, and 18 new businesses.
“Downtown Missoula remains a hot market for a vast array of businesses,” said Charlie Beaton, owner of Big Dipper Ice Cream and chairman of the Downtown Business Improvement District’s board of trustees.
“Despite the impact COVID has had on our community and in our country, downtown Missoula investment continues to follow an upward trajectory, leaving few vacancies in both residential and business properties.”
According to this year’s report, 18 new businesses have opened within the district over the past 12 months and nine have closed. The 2-1 ratio has been steady over the last decade and isn’t unusual, the partnership said.
This year’s newcomers included the AC Hotel – the largest new downtown business in 2021 – along with several galleries, the Boxcar Bistro and the Cambie Taphouse. This year’s closures included The Pearl, Red Rooster Trading Co,, Carlos’ One-Night Stand, the Hob Nob and Taco Johns, among others.
“The pandemic had a significant impact on businesses this past year, eliciting decisions from business owners who pursued retirement or sought a different livelihood from entrepreneurship,” Beaton said. “Succession planning is difficult for those who own their own business, and maintaining employees and customers is a crucial part of serving the community.”
While business activity remains steady, a number of projects are either planned or in construction within the city’s core. The Missoulian property is set for redevelopment, and a deconstruction permit has been issued for the old Western Montana Clinic building and the parking garage at Riverfront Triangle, hinting toward redevelopment activity on that property next year.
The Old Sawmill District remains a hub of development activity. The new office building for ATG-Cognizant is under construction. Once finished, the $20 million project will add to the district’s tech hub and house a new grille.
“It remains to be seen what 2022 investment looks like,” the partnership said in its report. “There are several large land parcels in downtown Missoula that have the potential for transformation, including the former Missoulian building, the former library and, of course, the Riverfront Triangle.”