Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Missoula Redevelopment Agency on Thursday put the final touch on a contract to remove the Sleepy Inn, a project that's expected to be gone by the end of the March.

Members of the City Council also approved the contract's funding proposal on Wednesday and will finalize it Monday night.

The property will be placed on the market this spring and whatever it fetches during the sale will be invested into the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund, city officials have said.

“We would like to see and we'll talk with the city's realtor about a development that aligns and is consistent with the West Broadway Master Plan,” said Annie Gorski, deputy director at MRA. “Last year, we identified what we thought there was room for on the site, but we need to see what's marketable.”

Gorski said any sale proposal would be brought to MRA for vetting before the purchase and sale agreement went to City Council for final approval. Unlike some of its properties, the city is trying to sell the Sleepy Inn with as few strings attached as possible.

“Trying to market it with conditions could certainly impact our ability to sell it,” said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan. “There's a control in place through zoning and the master plan and the desire to comply with that, but we'll have to sit down with the (Hess) administration and figure out the procedure.”

The West Broadway Master Plan covers 15 acres within the corridor and envisioned the Sleepy Inn property as being the new gateway to the district. The plan calls for a “signature” five or six story building with ground floor retail and 30 or more residential units above.

But MRA said the site has constraints that could make redevelopment challenging, including access. The property sits at the corner of the busy Russell Street and West Broadway intersection.

Redevelopment of the Sleepy Inn property calls for gateway building leading into the West Broadway corridor planning area.
Redevelopment of the Sleepy Inn property calls for a gateway building leading into the West Broadway corridor planning area.

Buchanan said the former Engen administration decided against seeking a request for proposals from developers interested in the property, or entering into a public-private partnership for redevelopment.

Instead, she said, city leadership decided that it made more sense to simply sell the property and direct any proceeds toward affordable housing elsewhere in Missoula.

“It's a pretty small site,” Buchanan said. “It's going to be a challenging site.”

Buchanan added that affordable housing would be more optimal and easier to build in other areas of the West Broadway planning area. She also said the city was hesitant to concentrate affordable housing in a single area.

“The thing the master plan addressed, we don't want to concentrate one type of housing in this corridor,” Buchanan said. “There's opportunities in other areas. That part of Missoula is already solving a lot of social services problems.”

The contract to abate asbestos and lead from the old Sleepy Inn, and remove the building after that work is done, provides a 60-day window to complete the work once the contract is finalized. However, it provides an extension if needed.

Still, city officials hope to have the property on the market by the end of March.