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Current Events: The future of the downtown Missoula’s old federal building

Federal Building Purchase
Posted at 11:22 AM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 13:22:00-04

MISSOULA — Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston joined Montana This morning on Monday to discuss the future of Missoula's old downtown federal building.

"On Monday night during the city council meeting, the public hearing, the city council got some feedback from the Missoula Midtown Association which wasn't a big proponent of the resolution as it was written,” Kidston explained. “Mayor John Engen also suggested caution and as a result, the city council decided to send this resolution back to committee to continue developing it to see if it's the right option moving forward.

“Just as a reminder, this resolution was intended to set a cap on the Urban Renewal District in the city and how much tax increment can be held within the district. Any increment over that number would be remitted back to the taxing jurisdiction,” Kidston said. “It's a complicated thing. It could have long-term impacts. Some groups are concerned that it could rob some groups of the ability to make improvements to their neighborhoods and their businesses.

One of the items that we have been following is the fate of the old federal building in downtown Missoula which the city and the county would like to get their hands on.

“Yeah, it's closer to happening, they may be able to purchase it as early as next year. They're still going through due diligence on the building to figure out how the city and county would share this space. It's a big facility. It's an old facility so it is going to need some remodeling, some updating to make it a true hub of government services,” Kidston said. “They're working with the National Park Service -- the federal government -- to move forward on the acquisition. It's not that far away if things stay on track the way they are.

There have been some questions about what would happen to the US Post Office branch that currently leases space in the building.

"There's talk of moving the post office to another location. The post office and federal government are working on that end of the deal. It's my understanding at this time that the post office could move to another location downtown,” Kidston explained. “We'll see where that goes, it's still uncertain.”

“One of the other things still hanging out there is how you're going to finance it and the updating of this facility. It has been estimated at about $40 million, $20 million from the city, $20 from the county. Some of that money could be recovered from the sale of city and county properties, like the city-county building there at city hall,” Kidston continued.

“Those kind of properties could be resold for redevelopment, which would be exciting for downtown. Some of that money could be reinvested into renovation of the federal building to cover the cost of the renovations.”

City and county officials have been touting the possible move into the old federal building saying it would save money since services would be consolidated and more efficient.

"That's exactly what they're saying. They lease properties throughout the downtown district, so this could eliminate the need for leasing, so they could save money there. They could, again, sell some properties for redevelopment, which continues redevelopment downtown and consolidate services,” Kidston said.

“So, people like you and I could go to one place and just about have everything done at one place instead of going here and then there. The licensing, the registration for things like the courts, for public hearings, that could all take place in one location now,” Kidston concluded.