MISSOULA — Construction on a new hotel in downtown Missoula remains on track for a spring opening, and while the hospitality industry has been hit by the pandemic, the developer said business at its other location remains strong.
HomeBase Partners broke ground on its new $23 million AC Hotel on the former Firestone property at 139 East Main Street last year. The pandemic arrived in March, and while it slowed construction, the project has managed to move forward.
“Dick Anderson (Construction) implemented really strict safety procedures with distancing,” said HomeBase developer Andy Holloran. “That inevitably has had an impact – how many people we can have on site at a time. But thankfully we’ve been able to keep people working and keep people busy and generally stay on schedule.”
The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors since the pandemic began earlier this year, and some portions of the industry continue to struggle.
A new survey of American Hotel & Lodging Association members found that many hotels continue to struggle, with 68% of them having less than half of their pre-pandemic staff working full time.
Holloran said the Residence Inn, located in downtown Missoula next to the AC Hotel, saw an initial hit early in the pandemic. Holloran said the impacts vary depending upon a hotel’s location, its safety protocols, and whether it caters primarily to leisure travelers or conventions and corporate meetings.
“From a leisure perspective, we’re right in a sweep spot,” Holloran said. “Like most people in April and May, we took a beating on occupancy. But over the last couple months, we’ve been running at 90% occupied. That’s a testament to our team and making the guests feel safe. We benefit also from a new hotel.”
The Residence Inn and AC Hotel will offer a combined 280 rooms and include nearly a dozen new restaurants, shops and pubs. They’ll also bring hundreds of tourists into the district each night, something the Residence Inn has demonstrated in its first 18 months of service.
HomeBase, which has invested upward of $50 million in the downtown district, remains bullish on Missoula.
“I think places like Missoula and Bozeman are the beneficiaries of the pandemic,” Holloran said. “I think we’re seeing people reemphasize quality of life, health, well being and balance. College towns with incredible amenities, a great medical network, a new airport – the short answer is that we’re bullish on the long-term prospects in both Missoula and Bozeman.”
While the AC is set to open in March, HomeBase also owns the vacant lot on the corner of Pattee Street and Broadway. Holloran said the firm is exploring future development options at that and other locations.
“We’re continuing to look at ideas, not only on that site, but others,” Holloran said. “We love downtown, and certainly housing is in great demand. We’re a long term player, and we believe in Montana and Missoula.”