Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With one of the city's urban renewal districts set to expire in the coming years, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency is working to complete a number of priorities, including the completion of water mains and sidewalks.

MRA's board of commissions last week approved a contract with Knife River for $1 million to install a water main in Montana Street, and complete the sidewalk network on both Montana and Dakota streets.

Both projects will take place east of Russell near the Old Sawmill District and are expected to begin construction this spring or summer.

“This is the final phase of this particular project in this district,” said Jil Dunn with MRA. “It allows us to further the goals of the district.”

Last year, MRA set and the City Council approved a number of priority projects in Urban Renewal District II before it sunsets in 2031. The goals include the conversion of the Bitterroot Branch railroad trestle to pedestrian use and lighting the Bitterroot Branch Trail.

But the exit strategy also includes the completion of key infrastructure, mainly sidewalks and water mains. MRA for years has been working to install sidewalks using tax increment, and the work is slowly approaching completion within the district.

Missoula Mayor Andrea Davis thanked MRA for funding such infrastructure.

“I can tell you how many folks will benefit in this neighborhood from these sidewalks,” she said.

Proposed water and sidewalk project west of Russell Street.
Proposed water and sidewalk project west of Russell Street.

With development interest high, MRA also approved an engineering contract with IMEG to design a water main and sidewalks on Montana Street west of Russell. The project is expected to go to bid this fall and will include 1,900 linear-feet of new water main and 600 feet of sidewalks.

“We've moved it up because there's a desire to develop some property over there,” said Dunn. “Several housing projects have been explored in this area but were unable to proceed due to the cost of installing water mains for the required fire-hydrant coverage.”

The work includes both Catlin and Washburn streets. Local developer Adam Hertz has one project planned on one of the properties served by the new infrastructure.

While interest rates remain challenging, Hertz said the current plan includes roughly 21 apartments on the north end of Washburn.

“I'm not sure how soon we can start on the project, but we certainly can't start on the project until the water main is in place because we can't have combustibles on site,” he said. “This project would be important for spurring growth in the area. I've talk to some of the surrounding property owners who also plan on doing various types of development in the future.”