By Martin Kidston

An historic downtown Missoula building held in a family corporation for several generations is now on the market, with a list price of $1.85 million.

John Coffee, an agent with ERA Lambros Real Estate, said the Hammond Arcade Building and Annex, located on Higgins Avenue next to the Wilma, was listed in August and has attracted several inquiries.

Coffee traces the property's history back to his grandfather, Sydney Johnson Coffee, who arrived in Montana in 1890.

“He owned a store called the Missoula Drug Co., on Higgins and Front where El Cazador is now,” Coffee said. “He eventually bought the entire Hammond Building.”

According to Coffee, the original structure burned down in the 1930s. The building most Missoulians recognize as the Hammond Building – and the structure that's for sale – was constructed shortly after the fire.

Coffee said the building has always been held by a corporation of owners. He sold his membership back to the corporation “years ago,” he said, though he's been managing the property since the 1970s.

“I sold my membership in it a long time ago back to the corporation, and now my brother's descendants and children own it,” Coffee said. “They're scattered across the country and, frankly, they'd prefer to sell it.”

The single-story property includes 11 retail spaces and currently claims a 100 percent lease rate. The building offers more than 20,000 square feet of retail space and 6,000 square feet in the attached annex.

“The annex is the building that sits between the Hammond Building and the Wilma,” said Coffee. “I saw a picture of it when the Wilma wasn't there. I think it predates a lot of stuff. We just don't know exactly when it was built.”

Over the past year, Coffee has expressed frustration with the ongoing Missoula Mercantile debate. That historic structure stands across the street and has sat empty for six years.

A developer is working to close on the property and has received preliminary approval from the city to deconstruct the Mercantile and erect a $30 million hotel in its place. However, a group of preservation advocates has filed a lawsuit in Missoula District Court to stop the project.

Coffee is frustrated.

“Everyone says it's just wonderful in Missoula, but it's not so wonderful downtown,” Coffee said, speaking to the district's business climate. “The Mercantile has been empty and derelict for years. It's been a dead weight, and that's hurt all of us downtown.”

Coffee said he supports the new Marriott hotel project, saying it would bring visitors to the downtown district and help bolster local businesses. The hotel project includes ground-floor retail and dining space, he noted.

“If these people who want to save the Mercantile at all costs would put up some money to buy it, then good for them,” Coffee said. “If they can't, then they should take a back seat and let the owners move on with the (hotel) project.”

The Hammond Building is one of several properties or vacant lots listed for sale in downtown Missoula. The Studebaker Building at 216 W. Main is listed at $1.95 million, while the DeMarois Building at 228 W. Main is listed at $1.85 million.

The property that formerly housed Fran's Second Hand Store at Woody and Pine streets is also listed at $425,000.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at