I'M NOT SURE if downtown Missoula is booming, but it sure is building. Construction is all around the downtown area with investors betting that owning space in Missoula is going to pay off.
In the past it has proven to be a safe bet. Our community has a long history of supporting a vibrant downtown area. So when buildings began closing their doors several years ago, the question was asked: "What are we to do about it?"
Apparently that question has been answered. Investors are doubling down on downtown - and I'm just one of the Missoula residents thinking their wagers will pay off in a big way - for all of us.
Nowhere is the work being welcomed with more enthusiasm than at the home of a former department store at the corner of Higgins Avenue and Front Street:
- The most obvious sign of recovery for the downtown area is the work taking place in the old Macy's location in the Missoula Mercantile Building. The 100,000-square-foot building on one of downtown's busier corners has been shuttered since Macy's pulled the plug on their department store a couple of years ago. At the time there was no denying its closure was a big, in fact, massive hit to downtown. It's reopening promises to be an event of equal significance - even if it remains a year away. There is plenty of work to be done. The building is being scraped clean down to its brick shell and flooring. Construction should take a year with occupancy coming soon after its completion.
Other significant construction projects currently taking place downtown include:
- The former Army Navy store that operated on one of downtown's main streets for the past 20 years is being totally renovated to serve a new purpose. After two decades of being retail space, this building will become home to a new restaurant once construction is complete this coming winter.
- The Pipestone Building on Front Street has been vacant for two years but work there indicates that is coming to an end. Plans call for Missoula's first distillery to move into the remodeled space and to reopen the building's door later this summer.
- The Abode Building on Main Street is being remodeled to move on from a retail space to the home of a new hair salon. That work should be completed later this summer.
All of the commercial sites need consumers and also being renovated in the downtown area is:
- The historic Palace Apartment Complex. For a long time the Palace has offered affordable housing in downtown Missoula. Improvements will modernize the interior while maintaining its historic exterior.
Also in the works are several improvements intended to make it easier to get downtown. Work is underway to:
- Upgrade the city's bus transfer station, which will include a new food center and solar panels.
- Build more parking spaces. The Park Place Parking Garage on Front Street will bring 320 new parking spaces into the downtown area.
Downtown also is seeing work to improve its infrastructure, including resurfacing of streets and replacement of water lines.
All one has to do is take a walk around downtown Missoula and it is clear folk here aren't waiting for the nation's economy to rebound. Missoula is moving forward - and we all get to move forward with it. I can hardly wait to see where we all end up.