This story has been updated with a comment from the city. 

Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The owners of property at Fort Missoula on Tuesday said they're ready to apply for a demolition permit to remove the Old Post Hospital after the city denied a permit to develop housing on an adjacent lot to fund the hospital's restoration.

The project, planned on private property at the fort, was scuttled after the Historic Preservation Commission denied the permit and the City Council upheld that denial on a 7-4 vote last week.

“It is with a heavy heart that FAE-Wolf has been forced to prepare an application for a demolition permit with the City of Missoula to remove the Old Post Hospital,” the project developer said in a statement.

Efforts to reach the firm on Tuesday weren't immediately successful.

Max Wolf of North of the Border LLC and FAE-Wolf, said the owners will offer the hospital for sale with the condition that it be removed. They've set the asking price at $10 and will offer $100,000 to assist in the building's removal.

If neither are successful, they said they'll seek a demolition permit. Relocation of the hospital isn't likely given its size. Restoration costs currently stand at around $8 million.

“FAE-Wolf bought the hospital with the express intention of restoring it to its original glory,” the firm said. “We proposed a mixed-use development to justify the investment that would have been required to restore the hospital alone. We felt strongly that we were the ones to save it, and we offered an innovative plan to accomplish that goal.”

Members of the Missoula City Council tour the Old Post Hospital at Fort Missoula on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)
Members of the Missoula City Council tour the Old Post Hospital at Fort Missoula on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

However, the Historic Preservation Commission denied the permit to carry out the plan, citing a number of concerns. Among them, the commission said the proposed project didn't meet their expectations of massing, scale, materials and other issues.

The development team appealed that ruling to the City Council, suggesting the commission failed to provide fair and objective consideration of the project. But the City Council upheld the commission's denial last week.

“Now after 5 years and spending over $750,000 managing the property, paying taxes and fees to try and get our proposal approved, we have no choice but to move forward with the removal or demolition of the hospital,” the company said in a statement. “The reality is, after last week’s decision, the situation is only going to get worse.”

FAE-Wolf also remains frustrated with what it sees as the city's anti-business, anti-development stance and hypocrisy among local preservationists.

“FAE-Wolf tried its best, but those who wanted no change and are part of a tight-knit group of people who have more control than they deserve, won out,” they said. “When we look back at the history of this saga, let it be written that it was the self-described historic preservationists who caused the collapse of the Old Post Hospital.”

Missoula Mayor Andrea Davis said there remains path for approval of the project if FAE-Wolf were to incorporate the suggestions of City Council.

“I’m sorry to hear the FAE-Wolf, the developer, is moving forward with the intention of a demolition permit," Davis said. "The city made clear on several occasions throughout the process that there is a path for the developer to have an approvable project without demolishing the Post Hospital. If the Developer were to resubmit the proposed project with the conditions they proposed to City Council the day before the final decision, they would be well on their way. I hope they will consider this.”