A longtime Missoula developer has laid claim to a corner of Malfunction Junction, where it plans to construct a mixed-use project with housing and retail, setting the stage for future growth in the city's Midtown district.

McElmurry Homes has purchased property at 1515 South Avenue at the corner of Brooks Street, where it plans to construct two new apartment buildings, one of which will offer commercial space on the main level.

The project carries a $1.8 million cost and sets the stage for future high-density development within the Midtown district, something the city and a group of stakeholders have been encouraging for years.

“It's vertical construction on the South Avenue corridor and it conforms well with the message the Missoula Redevelopment Agency has been sending in this area for a number of years, wanting to see mixed-use type of development come in,” said Todd Gass with MRA.

The first building will front South Avenue and include 15 units, including 12 residential and three commercial spaces on the ground floor. The three-story building will sit next to a two-story structure with three units and six garages.

The design of the complex includes a semi-private outdoor space and improved landscaping on what currently serves as a crumbling parking lot. The project will also make improvements to the public right of way on South Avenue, including 7-foot-wide sidewalks.

“We're setting a good model with 7-foot sidewalks, with future development of buildings hopefully oriented up to the sidewalk,” said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan. “I think we're setting the stage in a good way on the future of South Avenue.”

Project location.
Project location.

The Midtown district has taken center stage in recent city plans, including the Brooks Street Corridor Report released earlier this year.

That document, which will help inform a grant the city hopes to win next year, looks to transform the district into a vibrant urban hub built around new housing, services and walkable neighborhoods.

Greater density could also aid in future public transit, with Mountain Line looking to launch 15-minute service on Brooks Street once the ridership capacity is there.

“I'm glad to see that this project is three stories,” said MRA board member Ruth Reineking. “It's good to see that the density is starting to build up.”

MRA's Board of Directors on Friday approved $20,000 in tax increment financing to reimburse McElmurry Homes for a portion of the project's costs, including new sidewalks, gutters and landscaping in the public right-of-way.

“This fits well with the vision laid out in the report,” said Gass. “It brings in the residential component to this area. It fits well with the redevelopment we're seeing in the area and the activity we're seeing around Southgate Mall.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com