Martin Kidston – Missoula Current
Two properties on a prime corner of downtown Missoula went on the real estate market this week and the inquiries from potential buyers interested in the $3.9 million deal are already coming in.
Jesse Eagen of Eagen Real Estate said the package includes the buildings housing Worden’s Market and the Old Post Pub, both prominently located on the corner of Higgins Avenue and Spruce Street.
The sale includes the properties only, while the businesses will remain in operation and likely be part of any future redevelopment, Eagen said.
“The businesses are not for sale,” he said. “It’s the Worden’s building and the Old Post Pub building, and the parking lot back there, which combines a half-acre in downtown Missoula.”
The properties were officially listed on Thursday and have been owned by Tim France since around 1987. France bought Worden’s across the street in 1981 and moved the market and deli to its current location after acquiring the property.
“He’s getting to that age where he’s looking to pass the torch,” Eagen said of his client. “That property is on an iconic corner. I’ve already had a few inquiries.”
Eagen said the structure housing Worden’s includes around 5,000 square feet while the Old Post offers roughly 7,500 square feet. It also includes a basement and roughly seven apartments on the second floor. The parking lot has 24 spaces.
The lot combined offers .49 acres of land, and Eagen said interest in redeveloping the Worden’s parcel is high. Inquiries have included everything from multi-story lodging to housing, with Worden’s retained on the ground floor.
The Old Post structure would likely remain intact.
“So far, it’s all over the board,” Eagen said. “Several have inquired as an income property, to keep it as-is with some rehab work. The other half have been developers. There’s been talk on everything from another hotel to downtown housing. That’s what I’m really hoping for, someone to come in and put some housing in with Worden’s on the main floor.”
The Missoula Downtown Partnership this week unveiled a draft of its new Downtown Master Plan, one that sets a progressive and vibrant vision for the city’s core. The plan gives a nod to adaptive reuse of single-story structures and reiterates the city’s need for downtown housing.
Eagen believes the Worden’s parcel is well suited for a mixed-use project.
“Other than the Wilma, we don’t really have any housing downtown,” said Eagen. “Any time those units come up for sale, they change hands really rapidly. I envision a new building with housing where Worden’s is on the ground floor.”
Over the past few years, several prominent downtown properties have changed owners, driven in part by a generational shift and Missoula’s growing prominence among investors.
Missoula Investors LLC purchased the old Mercantile property and now own the defunct Firestone garage on the corner of Pattee and Main streets. Both properties have or are being redeveloped at a cost of more than $40 million.
Other changes in ownership have included the Hammond Block, the Radio Central Building and the Florence, which sold late last year to Tomas Taylor. The Payne Family recently donated the current library property to the city.
Eagen said interest in downtown Missoula is higher than he’s ever seen it.
“In the 27 years I’ve been in real estate, the last two years the number of downtown properties that have sold equal more than the last 20 years combined,” he said. “It’s generational and part of it is a great economy and people are doing things.”
Eagen expects that activity to continue.
“There’s a lot of people very bullish on Missoula, and especially on downtown Missoula,” he said. “It’s a fair statement to say we have the most thriving downtown of any city in Montana. Now with the two new downtown hotels, I see people really bullish on downtown Missoula.”