The Missoula Midtown Association on Thursday signed a contract with a design team that will lead the master planning process for the Midtown district next week.

Melanie Brock, a member of the Midtown planning committee, said ECONorthwest was selected to lead the effort. The firm, based across the Western U.S., has been associated with other projects in Missoula, including “missing middle” housing.

“They're coming as of next week to do a deep dive into existing conditions,” said Brock. “This fall, they'll be back to lead the public charrette process.”

Calling it a forgotten neighborhood that holds great potential for infill, redevelopment and housing, the Missoula City Council in February approved an agreement directing federal funding toward the completion of a master plan.

The area is bisected by Brooks Street, where a separate $850,000 federal RAISE Grant is being used to study and plan for a bus rapid transit system. Once realized, that effort will provide timely public transportation along the corridor and connect it with downtown Missoula.

The master plan and corridor study are two separate projects, said Annette Marchesseault with the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. But in the end, they'll supplement the district's evolution.

“We have not heard from the Federal Transit Authority yet with regard to the Brooks Street corridor project,” said Marchesseault. “But we're starting an Engage Missoula page which should go live on Monday, particularly about that project.”

A vision for the Brooks Street corridor and a bus rapid transit system.
A vision for the Brooks Street corridor and a bus rapid transit system.

The Midtown Master Plan will set a guiding vision for redevelopment and growth within the district, helping it realize its full potential for public and private investment. Similar plans have been adopted for downtown Missoula, the West Broadway Corridor and the North Reserve/Scott Street Urban Renewal District.

The Midtown district and the Brooks Street corridor are served by roughly 2,000 businesses that employ an estimated 17,000 people. Another 16,000 residents live within the district, mostly in traditional single-family neighborhoods built between the 1940s and 1970s.

But the area has ample space for infill and room for vast transportation improvements to make it more pedestrian friendly. Brock said ECONorthwest will conduct a walking audit of the corridor.

The firm will present its findings and recommendations this fall as the master plan moves toward adoption.

“I'm sure people will see them as their team is all around Midtown doing a deep dive into existing conditions,” Brock said.