Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

A small investment of tax increment financing to build public infrastructure alongside privately funded projects has leveraged millions of dollars in economic development in recent years and has enabled the City of Missoula to make further investments in housing and public infrastructure.

That, according to the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and members of the City Council, has successfully transformed various parts of the city, including the downtown district, where several new projects are wrapping up and others sit poised on the horizon.

“This was an abandoned hotel just sitting there. What it was bringing in for property taxes was low,” council member Stacie Anderson said of the Wren Hotel set to open on Main Street. “With this minimal investment of TIF funding, the amount of money it's now bringing into the district is significant, similar to the AC Hotel. It generates a pretty substantial increment we can leverage to do other things with.”

The urban renewal districts that cover areas of Missoula have helped leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment over the past decade, creating new jobs and new businesses. It also has boosted the city's tax base and grown the amount of revenue held within each urban renewal district.

The city has invested those funds to build affordable housing, lay the infrastructure for housing and retail development, and to secure forlorn properties for future housing. It also has funded many miles of sidewalks and water mains, and modernized public utilities to promote future private investment.

A bus rapid transit system is planned along the Brooks Street corridor.
A bus rapid transit system is planned along the Brooks Street corridor.

It also funds the city's planning and engineering efforts, including a planned transit system along the Brooks Street corridor and the pending conversion of Front and Main streets to two-way traffic.

“We've expanded the scope of that (Front and Main conversion) to account for the impact of the Riverfront Triangle development, so we can work with the Montana Department of Transportation on the intersection of Broadway and Orange Street,” said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan.

While the Front Street Urban Renewal District has helped spark such projects as student housing, a new public library, various hotels and utility work, the adjacent Riverfront Triangle URD has sat quiet for many years.

As a result, little funding is held the district's account, though that could change in the coming years. Buchanan said the redevelopment of the seven acres that comprise the Riverfront Triangle is still a viable project.

“We do have a new group of developers that seem to have a strong interest in not only developing the city-owned property, but what is also under private ownership,” Buchanan said. “It's a very aggressive project. It still gets the hotel. It still gets the retail. It still gets some sort of a community center and performing arts venue, and it gets housing and office buildings.”

In April, Capital V Partners said it was wrapping up due diligence on the Riverfront Triangle and planned to purchase all seven acres. The group also plans to develop the site under a single master plan.

“We're excited there's a potential for a master developer for the whole thing,” said Buchanan. “We're looking at one cohesive development.”