MISSOULA — City officials on Monday said they expect to receive the cost estimates next week regarding the future consolidation of local government in the historic federal building in downtown Missoula.
They also said the U.S. Post Office, located in the building off West Broadway, could be leaving the facility soon.
“They’ve been notified by the Government Services Administration that their GSA lease will be terminating. That process requires them to look at alternative sites, and they're doing that as well,” said Dale Bickell, the city’s CAO. “They’re looking at their current site and potential other sites in the 59802 zip code.”
Bickell said the USPS would be announcing its public process on a location search in the coming months.
The city and county several years ago expressed interest in possibly acquiring the federal building and using it as a central hub of local government. Both the city and county are spread across various sites in downtown Missoula and pay leases on multiple properties.
Local government contracted A&E to conduct due diligence on the building and have said the facility is in good shape. They’re now working on potential designs and how the two governments could best consolidate in the facility.
“They’ve taken steps to mash up the city and county space needs to see how they’d work in those facilities,” Bickell said. “There’s some more work to get done there. While the building is quite large, the space is awkward from a modern perspective. There’s some significant challenges for us.”
While the building could accommodate a number of office needs, it lacks other essentials, including public meeting space. The building was constructed on columns and finding the room could be challenging, Bickell said.
The Missoula Police Department has its own unique needs, including briefing rooms and evidence areas. The design estimates will present a range of scenarios, from moving into the facility “as is” to undertaking a larger renovation to improve connectivity and usage.
“The GSA has done a good job maintaining that building, and our design team has confirmed that,” Bickell said. “There may be an opportunity to use that building well without a major renovation, but that’s something we’ll have to determine.”
Both the city and county expect the process to continue moving forward. Design estimates should be out next week. The GSA is expected to convey the building in late 2022 and local government hopes to receive it at no cost under the Good Neighbor Program operated by the National Park Service.
“What we’re preparing for is to get to the point where we can request the conveyance from GSA, but under the historic monument roles that the NPS has,” Bickell said. “We need to understand the cost and context in our application to the NPS. That’s the end goal, and we’re hoping to do that by this summer essentially."