Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Work to remove a dilapidated building on city-owned property on West Broadway received approval from the Missoula City Council on Wednesday, setting the stage for deconstruction and eventual redevelopment.

On a 9-1 vote, council members approved a construction agreement with Western Interstate to remove the old Wooden Images building at 1359 West Broadway and salvage as much material as possible.

“I think it's always in our benefit to deconstruct over demolition,” said council member Heidi West.

The city acquired the Missoula Water building during its takeover of Mountain Water Co. in 2017. In 2021, it followed by purchasing the Wooden Images building, which is located next door, as part of its plans to redevelop the West Broadway corridor.

The city also purchased the old Sleepy Inn, which is part of the larger redevelopment plans.

While the city used the old Sleepy Inn as a quarantine shelter during the pandemic, it couldn't find a use for the Wooden Images property given the structure's poor condition.

“We tried to find ways to use the building, but with a leaking roof, it was determined not to be feasible,” said Logan McInnis, deputy director of Public Works. “We don't want it to become a safety hazard, so we'd like to move forward with deconstructing the building.”

The $75,000 contract will mostly be covered by the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, along with smaller amounts from Missoula Water and other city utilities. Abatement work on asbestos is also taking place but under a separate contract.

“The property was acquired as a desire to land bank as much adjacent property as possible adjacent to the water building,” said McInnis. “When the site gets redeveloped, it'll be rolled into redevelopment of the water building.”

The city has stated its plans to move Missoula Water to its Scott Street property as an effort to consolidate Public Works. At that point, the city plans to redevelop several of its properties within the West Broadway corridor, including the Sleepy Inn, and property in and around the water building.

The new West Broadway Master Plan was adopted by the city last December and guides the corridor's vision for redevelopment. The plan covers roughly 15 acres south of Broadway and emphasizes housing, retail and restaurants, along with a number of transportation options.

On the housing front, it looks to provide around 130 market-rate townhomes and apartments, and around 70 affordable housing units targeted to a range of incomes.

“This (Wooden Images property) is part of the larger vision for this corridor,” said council member Mirtha Becerra. “I think it's going to be helpful to have that deconstructed. It poses a public hazard to the community.”

Council member Sandra Vasecka opposed the deconstruction contract.

"I disagreed with purchasing this property in the first place, and I disagree with the concept of government land banking," she said.