Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A number of properties owned by the City of Missoula could be redeveloped in a public-private partnership to help meet its goals around housing and commercial growth.

The city contracted the Missoula Economic Partnership last year to court potential developers who were capable of and interested in redeveloping the old library block downtown. While that process plays on, MEP plans to take a similar approach on other properties held by the city.

“We continue to see a lot of interest from developers, both those who have a track record of working here and others that are interested in the market,” said Grant Kier, head of MEP. “It's really been about housing, housing, housing and commercial.”

Last August, the city contracted Edlen & Co/deChase Miksis to begin forming a redevelopment vision for the old library block in the downtown district.

Julie Lacey, the economic development director with MEP, said the firm has extended its period of due diligence and is collaborating with the city toward a final vision for the property. They're also working with MEP in considering potential commercial tenants.

“They really have to figure out some of the logistics on the design,” said Lacey. “They've done a lot of the public engagement piece. Now it's just figuring out the pro-forma model and what that looks like. Hopefully in the next couple of months we'll see an initial design or rendering there.”

Both the city and county, along with the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, have contracted MEP to serve as the city's economic arm. With a number of other properties held by the city, MEP plans to assist in future redevelopment plans.

The city is currently conducting due diligence on a vacant 10-acre parcel located near Southgate Mall. The property has been eyed for housing for the past two decades and a number of city plans have identified the property as underutilized and as having a high redevelopment potential.

Despite that potential, the property lacks city services and remains vacant.

“Given the completion of the Midtown Master Plan and other plans that are in place, we're starting to do an initial inquiry on who could be interested in redeveloping that site, and developing a timeline and process with the city,” said Lacey. “We connected with the landowners to talk about what the disposition of that looks like, and we continue to see an opportunity for us to help facilitate those conversations.”

The Roseburg property could also present plans for redevelopment, Lacey said. The company announced its plans to close earlier this year and MEP has been working through a company representative to explore future options.

“We continue to see what the opportunities are for the redevelopment or reuse of that site and how that plays in with the market needs, for both the commercial development of the site and longer-term goals for housing,” Lacey said.

With plans for the city and county to co-locate into the historic federal building in the coming years, a number of other properties could open up in the downtown district. Both governments have indicated an interest in selling several properties, including the county administration building and potentially City Hall.

While nothing is yet set in stone, MEP said it could take a similar approach in recruiting qualified developers, just as it did for the library property.

“If the properties open downtown, there could be opportunities there,” said Kier. “There's an appetite for both housing and commercial, so it gives us some confidence that when the time comes for the disposition of county properties for similar purposes, there will be an appetite out there.”