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Developers turning to new zoning tool in proposed Third Street apartment project

Posted at 1:07 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 01:14:27-04

MISSOULA — The city will put one of its newest zoning tools to the test in the proposed redevelopment of a historic building on Third Street, which looks to add more apartments to the structure.

University Avenue Developers has applied for a zoning change for the property at 508 S. Third Street W. along with an “adaptive reuse overlay,” which aims to preserve elements of a historic structure while allowing for new or expanded uses.

“This is the first time this tool has been proposed to be applied locally,” said council member Jordan Hess. “It’s one of the first five adaptive reuse overlay tools in the country.”

The existing building stands three stories and currently includes 16 apartments. The developers are looking to increase the number of units to 22. While most of the units are currently one-bedroom apartments, the project would convert them to a studio design.

The City Council is set to vote on the issue on Monday night.

“At some point, there were more than 16 units in this building,” said Jesse Dobson, representing the development team. “There are more doors in the hallway than there are units. There are a number of units in the building that have more than one door. We’ve come up with a plan that includes 22 very well laid out studio apartments.”

City planner Emily Gluckin said the building was erected in 1909 and serve as an apartment complex before it was used as a hospital into the 1920s. The medical staff later moved to what would become Community Medical Center and the building on Third Street reverted to an apartment.

“The building would be a contributing element in the McCormick Historic District,” Gluckin said.

The City Council will consider the project in September, and most appeared in favor of the adaptive reuse. But the added density has some neighbors concerned over parking.

The building currently includes 16 parking spaces, one for each room. While the project would result in 22 units, only 17 parking spaces are required.

Gluckin said parking reductions are permitted in zoning code since the property sits on a transit line and lies within a historic district.

“It’s a bit naive to think you can add six people to a building and not have a parking problem,” said Ralph Leonard, who owns a neighboring business. “We call the police already for parking problems. I think its an issue, and it’s probably an issue in other parts of town too.”