A new bar and grill and lifestyle center will join the pace of construction in the Old Sawmill District this year, while a neighborhood inn and active retirement center are expected to follow next year, the developers said Thursday.

A new 218-bed student housing project is also under construction, along with the last two condominiums that marked the development's inaugural phase.

“By the end of next summer, it will look like a completely different place,” said Leslie Wetherbee, a partner in the Sawmill development. “It's really taking shape now and you can feel the energy from it.”

Just three years ago, the Sawmill District was little more than a vacant field, though it had been primed by the city for development.

While the project was slow to gain traction initially, it has since boomed with four condo buildings, a student housing center and high-end apartment building that's nearly complete.

In the coming months, Wetherbee said, the project will break ground on two additional buildings, including a lifestyle center. Several tenants have been secured for the ground floor, she said, while offices and residential are planned for the upper floors.

“We're also in the design phases for the Sawmill Grille now, and we'll be getting a building permit for that pretty soon,” said Wetherbee. “Our goal is to start construction for that this fall and open by this time next year.”

A new 218-bed student housing project is currently under construction in the Old Sawmill District near downtown Missoula.
A new 218-bed student housing project is currently under construction in the Old Sawmill District near downtown Missoula.

While the developers gear up to launch the two additional projects, they're also planning for the opening of the new student housing project.

That development is one of two such projects under construction in Missoula, the other being downtown on Front Street. The student housing in the Sawmill District will include 218 beds in 57 units.

“We had that in our plan from the beginning,” said Wetherbee. “When we started looking at businesses and products, we wanted to have all ages. We wanted to have a small amount of student housing. We think the students add a lot of energy.”

The energy brought by the students will complement the developer's plans to build an active living center for those 55 and up. That's expected to break ground next year.

Wetherbee said the project will cater to those looking to break free of a mortgage and home upkeep.

“They want to take out their equity and worry less about ownership and maintenance,” Wetherbee said. “It's meant to be very social, and we'll offer a lot of different services, such as lifelong learning.”

Next year's projects will also include a neighborhood inn, one that will offer roughly 25 rooms in a boutique-style setting. Wetherbee said it will likely sit next to the Sawmill Grille on the north side of Wyoming Street.

“A lot of people who are living down here are downsizing,” Wetherbee said. “For that once or twice a year when you need that guest bedroom, you'll have that opportunity down here (with the neighborhood inn).”