Housing construction, infrastructure dominated growth in Missoula in 2022Posted: January 9, 2023
MISSOULA – With Missoula’s dire need for more housing, it didn’t come as a surprise over the course of 2022 as dozens of new projects popped up across the city.
Housing development also continued in the South Hills and lower Grant Creek, and the Scott Street area is poised to welcome several hundred units of income-restricted housing in 2023 as construction winds down.
While 2022 wasn’t the biggest year in terms of large commercial projects or downtown infill, a number of notable projects did move forward in 2022. Here’s a look at 2022’s largest projects.
The $42 million Villagio broke ground last May and represents one the largest public-private housing projects in Montana.
Located off Scott Street on the city’s northside, the project will provide 200 income-restricted homes, primarily to those earning at or below 60% of the area median income. It will also include 24 units reserved for those with a housing voucher.
The project was funded with 4% housing tax credits, a tax-exempt bond and tax increment financing from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, among other sources. The Villagio is expected to open in 2023.
A Northside housing development launched in 2015 made significant strides in completing Phase 3 development this year, including 71 apartment units in three buildings.
The $9 million project on Rodgers Street received $75,000 from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to help fund a sewer extension and sidewalk, along with landscaping in the public right-of-way.
With the surge in redevelopment and housing in the Scott Street area, the city this year began talking about the area’s transportation grid. Those conversations are expected to continue in 2023.
The developer behind the Reed condominium project on Fourth Street is wrapping up construction, bringing downtown Missoula its newest housing addition.
But getting there wasn’t easy. In exchange for a sliver of right-of-way, the City Council two years ago required Bergquist LLC to dedicate 20% of the project’s housing units to affordable housing.
The development includes several dozen market-rate units in the main building and eight income-restricted units in a separate building dubbed the Rowe.
City officials have said the development has emerged as a model in ways the city can extract affordable housing from private developers in an otherwise private project.
With housing comes infrastructure, and the City of Missoula this year pounded out around $13 million in road and utility work in the Sxwtpqyen region.
After a year of delays, construction began in force this April and wrapped up in time for winter. That included connecting both Mary Jane Boulevard and George Elmer Drive to Flynn Lane, each by a roundabout.
A few finishing touches in Phase 1 will be completed in 2023 as the city looks for funding to continue future work. Development fees will play a key role in funding future work. That includes extending England Boulevard to George Elmer and connecting both George Elmer and Mary Jane to Broadway.
The entire area is deep into housing construction and is expected to accommodate more than 6,000 people and include a number of new retail, commercial and office components once fully built out.
Over the past year, construction of a large warehouse near the Wye began to take shape. It wasn’t until December that Amazon confirmed that it had leased the 72,000-square-foot facility.
The new warehouse, which will employ around 100 people, will complete the “last mile” of the Amazon shipping process. It’s expected to begin operating in 2023.
Clair Matten of Sterling CRE brokered the deal and said the warehouse began as a speculative project, demonstrating the city’s continuing need for warehouse space.
A project of similar size and mystery is under construction near the airport in Missoula County’s development district.
The City Council in November granted a tavern and casino permit for a restaurant planned as part of the Mullan Crossing project.
The property is currently designated for high-intensity commercial and residential uses on Mullan Road and was annexed into the city in 2020.
The restaurant project is expected to break ground in early 2023 and will include around 13,000 square feet with a kitchen and tasting room in the basement. The main floor will include the restaurant and tavern, with the casino set aside in a separate area.
Mullan Crossing, spearheaded by Eagen Real Estate, already includes a new $2.5 million office building. Along with the restaurant, the rest of the project will add a third building.
After years of planning and congressional legwork, Missoula’s new VA outpatient clinic opened in January, capping an $8 million project that greatly expanded healthcare to western Montana’s population of service members.
The 60,000-square-foot facility represents a 300% increase over the old facility and pays honor to veteran David J. Thatcher, who participated in the fabled Doolittle Raid over Japan in World War II.
Efforts to build a new facility go back to at least 2014 when Sen. Jon Tester brought then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to Missoula to discuss the need.
While downtown Missoula was largely devoid of new projects in 2022, one project proposed back in 2019 did wrap up, that being the conversion of the old Days Inn into a new hotel on Main Street.
The finished project, dubbed The Wren, added a fourth floor to the former windowless building and increased the number of guest rooms from 52 to 73. The old building was erected in the 1960s and had reached the end of its useful life and had sat vacant for years.
Now, the colorful new Wren adds another addition to one of downtown’s new “hip” corners, which includes a pub, a lounge, new commercial opportunities and two hotels. Before, the corner was anchored by one shuttered hotel, two parking lots and a bland, windowless corporate building, which remains.
Nearly two years have passed since the developers behind McNett Flats brought their proposal for a new project to city officials seeking maximum density for their 20-acre property.
As 2022 comes to a close, the project has seen rapid development, with several apartment projects now completed and occupied. Others are under construction, all off George Elmer Drive in Missoula’s quickly expanding Sxwtpqyen district.
Once finished, McNett Flatts will bring roughly 660 residential units to the market with a blend of pet-friendly 1- and 2- bedroom units. A number of surrounding subdivisions are also filling in.
A project located off a formerly rural section of Broadway is slowly taking shape, and it has largely flown under the radar this past year.
Once construction is finished, The Lofts will include 147 residential units in a number of 2-story buildings aligned off Broadway, adjacent to the new VA clinic.
The project plans to begin leasing in January and will include vaulted ceilings, high-end features and units ranging from 1 to 3 bedrooms.
While 2022 wasn’t the biggest year for commercial projects, Cognizant-ATG opened its new Missoula headquarters in the Old Sawmill District in November.
The roughly $40 million project marked additional growth in the district’s tech center and punctuated the future of one of Missoula’s fastest-growing companies.
The company’s rapid growth prompted Cognizant-ATG to leave its old downtown office building for the Old Sawmill District in 2019. It initially took up residence in the still-fresh Cambium Building and now occupies its new building as well across the street.
ATG began as two employees in Missoula in 2011 and quickly grew. By early 2018, it claimed 130 employees. In 2019 it was acquired by Cognizant, a global provider of Internet technology that employs more than 260,000 people worldwide.
Not only did Missoula Montana Airport change its name this year, it also opened the first phase of its new passenger terminal in February.
The $67 million project, likely the largest price wise in Missoula this year, includes five passenger gates and a number of new amenities, including a bar and restaurant, security, a viewing deck and more space for passengers.
Later in the year, the Missoula Airport Authority voted to move forward with Phase 2 and 3. Since then, what remains of the old passenger terminal has vanished and by 2024, the airport will have a new single facility with 8 boarding gates, two baggage carousels and other items expected of a modern airport.
The project’s first phase included 89 miles of electrical wire, 57 miles of communication lines, 20,000 square feet of glass and more than 1,000 tons of American steel. But it also included environmental upgrades such as window glazing and more efficient heating and cooling systems.
Phase 2 is expected to cost around $30 million.
After one failed attempt and nearly another year of hearings, one of 2022’s more controversial projects in June won approval from the Missoula City Council.
Now, KJA Development has begun construction on a new phase in its Grant Creek Village project, which covers 44 acres on what served as a former gravel quarry off Interstate 90.
The finished product is expected to deliver 700 housing units along with various amenities including a pool, parks, a playground and a possible commercial piece.
The project took years to push through the approval process.
Approval enables the developers to build four stories to preserve more open space within the property, which was identified for high-density residential development in the city’s 2015 growth policy.
Not only did the Rocky Mountains Garden and Exploration Center take shape in 2022, but it also received a new name — that being the Gerald W. Marks Exploration Center and Rocky Mountain Gardens.
Marks, a 53-year county resident, spearhead the project and helped move it from concept to fundraising reality. The new facility anchors the northern edge of the Missoula County Fairgrounds and construction is nearly finished on the $13 million project.
The 29,000-square-foot building will house the Weed District and local 4-H, which together will occupy around two-thirds of the facility. The Missoula Insectarium will fill the remaining space, offering a classroom, a tropical butterfly house and a demonstration garden on wildflower pollinators.
Years in the making, development in Hellgate Village took shape in 2022, marking progress in the subdivision’s first few phases.
The city in 2020 approved a zoning change for 57 acres off Mullan Road and Flynn Lane, clearing the way for construction to begin. The first phase of Hellgate Village covers roughly 8 acres and included the southern extension of Mary Jane Boulevard in 2022.
Edgell Homes and Hoyt Homes Inc. together comprise the development team, HEH LLC, and said the initial phases of Hellgate Village include 13 different building types ranging from cottages, townhouses and several single-family homes.