By Martin Kidston
A Missoula-based digital mapping company has purchased an adjacent property on Stephens Avenue, where it plans to construct a new $2.3 million office building to accommodate its growing number of employees.
To do so, onXmaps is seeking $291,000 in tax increment financing from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to raze several small structures at what formerly housed Mel’s Used Cars, and to bring modern water and sewer utilities to the property.
It also looks to place new electrical and fiber lines underground to make way for the upward construction. MRA’s Board of Directors will consider the request this week, though the proposal has already won the support of MRA staff.
“Staff feels this project fits well into the neighborhood and may mark the beginning of additional redevelopment investment in the commercial neighborhood between Mount Avenue and Brooks Street,” MRA Assistant Director Chris Behan wrote in a staff memo.
The digital mapping company expanded its existing facility on Brooks Street in 2013 by adding 6,000 square feet and a second story. By the time construction wrapped up, however, the firm had nearly outgrown its new building, and the growth hasn’t stopped there.
The company, founded as Hunting GPS Maps, added nearly 30 new employees this year and plans to add nearly 60 more over the next two years, according to MRA. The company attributes the growth to the popularity of its IOS and Android apps.
Company owner Eric Siegfried couldn’t be reached for comment.
As proposed to MRA, onXmaps plans to clear the old car lot, located at 1900 Stephens Avenue, and construct a three-story office building. The new facility sits behind the mapping company’s current facility on Brooks and will offer more than 13,000 square feet of additional office space.
The project’s total cost is estimated at $2.7 million, with roughly $2.3 million earmarked for construction.
“Growth in the digital and research science sectors has long been a goal of the city, so the opportunity afforded by this project is to assist and promote the substantial expansion of a rapidly growing technology business,” Behan said. “This growth has and will continue to provide many more jobs with good pay and benefits.”
MRA believes the project could also serve as an incentive for additional redevelopment in the immediate area, which sits in Urban Renewal District III.
The former Elbow Room was recently redeveloped and reopened as Rumor restaurant, and a newly constructed office building also opened last year.
“The project is near the area recommended by the Urban Land Institute to be promoted as a ‘high tech’ campus with ties to the University of Montana,” Behan said. “There are many additional development opportunities in the immediate area, including several vacant and underutilized buildings and properties.”