Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Citing a range of possibilities and a unique opportunity, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency on Thursday approved a request to fund due diligence on a vacant 10-acre property in the Midtown district.

The lot sits behind Bob Wards near Southgate Mall and has sat vacant for years. Support from the Missoula Economic Partnership, the Missoula Midtown Association and the mayor's office could bring the property into city ownership and eventual redevelopment under a private-public partnership.

“This has been identified as a high opportunity and a high intensity area by several plans” said Mayor Andrea Davis. “We have the opportunity to look at various housing types – residential and commercial. We have a significant opportunity to build connections. The opportunity for a catalyst project for Midtown is substantial.”

Davis hours earlier attended the groundbreaking ceremony for another piece of city-owned property off Scott Street. The city purchased the parcel in 2020 for $6.6 million and has partnered with a private developer to deliver both income-restrict and market rate housing, and commercial amenities.

The Midtown property also offers wide development potential and could propel a number of district plans, including the new Midtown Master Plan and plans to reinvent the Brooks Street corridor. The property is currently owned by Southgate Mall Associates LLC and a combination of Beach Land and S.R. Beach Development LLCs.

“The efforts of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and the Missoula Economic Partnership to have successful negotiations with the two separate land owners to put this large 10 acres under contract is substantial,” said Davis. “We have to keep these long-range plans moving forward. When we have opportunities like this come up, we have to take advantage of them.”

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City Council member Mike Nugent also praised the opportunity on Thursday. The private sector never developed the property despite its location, but Nugent said a public-private partnership could help do so.

“The opportunity to grid this out and unlock all these parcels that have private development opportunities and potential public development opportunities is something only this group and the city can do,” Nugent said. “We've been waiting for a long time for the private sector alone to solve this. Sometimes there are occasions where we need to work together on these things.”


The property sits in Urban Renewal District III and is loosely described as the Southgate Triangle. The Midtown plan envisions a wide range of uses for the property including residential, office, retail and dining.

A plan conducted in 2003 envisioned something of a town center built around walkable streets and plazas. Early concepts also envisioned a neighborhood grocery, senior living, townhouses and a transfer center. The property abuts the Bitterroot Branch Trail and isn't far from Brooks Street, making high-density housing near transit a real opportunity.

“We've been planning this property for decades,” said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan. “It's been pointed out pretty consistently in these various plans, that we're necessarily related to each other, that this is a transitional area where we should expect very high density and intensity of use.”

A previous concept for the property.
A previous concept for the property.

The city will conduct due diligence on the property over the coming months, checking for easements and any environmental roadblocks. The Missoula Economic Partnership has already commissioned an opinion of value from a commercial realtor, placing the parcel's value at around $15 a square foot.

Buchanan said that value is in the purchase and sale agreement, pending verification by an appraisal.

“Part of the due diligence is to have some survey work done out there, which will then give us precise square footage and acreage, rather than relying on cadastrals,” Buchanan said.

The city recently asked the Missoula Economic Partnership to drum up interest among developers on a number of city parcels, including the Old Library Block downtown.

Grant Kier, the CEO at MEP, said his organization has already started to seek out potential developers for the Midtown property. If the city does purchase the lot later this year or early next year, those partnerships may already be in place, he said.

“We need places for our businesses to grow now. We need places for people to live now,” said Kier. “We're already trying to find interest and whatever process is appropriate to take those interested parties and lead them along. We'll work on agreements with anyone we need at the table. We're trying to move as fast as we can to move this toward productive ground.”