NewsMissoula County


Current Events: Lower Grant Creek housing, Beartracks Bridge updates

Posted at 10:27 AM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 12:27:47-04

MISSOULA – This edition of Current Events with Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston takes an in-depth look at a Lower Grant Creek housing project and possible changes for the Beartracks Bridge.

First up, we take a look at some of the concerns surrounding a proposed housing project in Missoula’s Lower Grant Creek area.

“It depends on how you want to look at that. This is the second project that KHJ Development has brought up. It's 44 acres toward Grant Creek that used to serve as a gravel quarry. It sits right by the interstate, the interchange. The developer brought a project there, seeking to rezone trying to build quite a few more housing units. The city council killed that proposal,” Kidston explained.

“The developer went back, redesigned the project with more housing than zoning allows. It is not as much housing as the developer proposed two years ago, but this week the planning board killed that project.”

“You have this 44 acres that used to be a quarry sitting there. The developer thinks it is designed for housing and the decision-makers think otherwise. They think it's too much housing. This decision comes just hours after the real estate industry presented their new housing report which has some pretty grim findings.”

Everyone says we need more housing, more affordable housing and here it is. And the city says, "we don't want it."

“This housing report said that Missoula needs about 650 more housing units just to bring the market into some sort of balance,” Kidston noted. “And of course, you're not going to get 650 housing units overnight. You're going to need those year after year. So when you're turning down a project that's going to bring 700 units to the market it kind of leaves some people scratching their heads. It's kind of a clear indicator as to why Missoula has a housing problem -- if they can't get housing projects approved."

Work on the Beartracks Bridge in Missoula is wrapping up but state officials are voicing some concerns that city planners are thinking of revamping Higgins Avenue around the bridge.

“The Beartracks Bridge project went into design several years ago and MDT went to work to make it a four-lane bridge. They spent extra money making wide pedestrian and bike paths and to maintain four lanes of travel because at that time that was important. Now the city wants to redesign the corridor all the way from Broadway to Brooks Street,” Kidston explained.

“They want to reduce that to possibly three lanes or even down to two with a center running plus a lane for bikes. Everyone agrees it's a dangerous corridor, everyone agrees it needs to be improved. But MDT just completed a $30 million four-lane bridge that's going to sit possibly smack in the middle of this three-lane road. It's going to be an odd thing," Kidston said. "Everyone is scrambling to see how there g going to use that bridge, the extra space on that bridge if the city does reduce lanes on Higgins. MDT called it a $30 million elephant ride in the middle of the city's project, so that's a pretty good summary about how this could play out in the weeks ahead."

The first two topics discussed leads into questions that the mood in city government might not be the most uplifting right now.

“The city works really hard. They’re doing a lot of good things, but one also feels they have a lot of balls in the air. If you look at the struggles on the housing front, they have a transportation plan but no way to fund it. The state has a broken tax system, there's no way to increase revenue for local governments,” Kidston said.

“The mayor is sick, we all wish him the best but that leaves some uncertainty, and most of all, the mood on the city council is pretty toxic these days with a couple of new electees that were brought in. There's a lot of rhetoric, a lot of mistruths that are being spoken in their meetings. There's toxicity there and it's not the best atmosphere when you see through the city council meetings these days,” Kidston concluded.