MISSOULA — One of the driving forces behind a unique development slated for Missoula’s Northside neighborhood continues to assemble the pieces needed to pull off the estimated $60 million project.
Goodworks Ventures, founded 14 years ago to invest in businesses that created good-paying jobs, has taken Missoula’s housing shortage under its wing and formed Ravara Development LLC with a team of like-minded partners.
Together, they’re working to develop a 9-acre property off Scott Street in partnership with the City of Missoula, making it a unique public-private endeavor aimed at addressing one of Missoula’s most pressing issues – housing.
“Last fall, when this all started to come together, we saw housing as a massive issue,” said Kiah Hochstetler, the chief operating officer for Goodworks Ventures. “This is our first go at development, and we knew we needed good partners.”
The city purchased the 19-acre parcel in 2020 for around $6.3 million and approved an agreement with Ravara in 2021 to develop 9 acres. The sales agreement with Ravara is contingent upon the planning process, material costs and the continued participation of the project’s primary investor, Goodworks Ventures.
Goodworks is playing the part of master developer.
“We’re building something for the community that people want to use in the neighborhood,” said Hochstetler. “There’s communication from the neighborhood that they don’t want a cheap, junky development, but also they don’ want high end. They want it to be quality, but not just throwing up housing.”
As proposed, around 6 acres of land within the development is reserved for workforce housing and will include a variety of affordable homes in a number of forms. Plans could see as many as 240 units developed in this phase, along with enough retail to serve the larger neighborhood.
That could include such things as a grocery store, a food court, daycare, and other services, Hochstetler said.
Another 3 acres will be donated to a community land trust and developed into 70 units of permanently affordable housing. The model has been implemented in other parts of Missoula and allows households to own their own unit while the land trust retains the land.
The result lowers the cost to the unit’s owner, making the homes more attainable.
“We’re working with InterUrban Design for the market-rate and commercial side,” Hochstetler said. “We haven’t identified all the parties to deliver the community land trust portion. But across that, there’s a myriad of different financing pieces we’re working with to deliver this.”
Financing the land trust development could include an impact-oriented investor interested in Missoula’s opportunity zone, along with established organizations that build housing. The property also sits in one of Missoula’s urban renewal districts, meaning tax increment financing could be used for infrastructure needs.
Habitat for humanity could also play a role.
“It’s a unique opportunity to bring 70 income-qualified units for working people in Missoula through the community land trust. The city has tasked us to deliver those units at 100% to 120% of the area median income,” Hochstetler said.
“For the multi-family and commercial side, it’s creating a neighborhood downtown space that brings services to a place that’s underserved.”
Earlier this month, the city and Goodworks Ventures, along with other project partners, held an open house to present the development’s progress and gain community feedback.
As expected, concerns over traffic, streets, access to parks, and density stood among the concerns. The Ravara project is one of several housing developments either planned or underway in the area, which was identified in a recent master plan as a suitable location for infill development and new services.
The city has plans to improve the road network and described the open house as “amazing.”
“There had to have been between 50 and 70 citizens there in addition to the team that’s been working on it. They did a great job in putting that together,” said Ellen Buchanan, director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. “We got great feedback and input. That project is moving along really well.”
Hochstetler said Goodworks Ventures remains committed to the project.
“We have a team at Goodworks working on all these different projects, and this was one of the ones we felt was important to the community to get delivered,” he said. “The concern was that someone could come in from the outside that doesn’t have the same values and develop a project that works but wasn’t optimal.”
A second open house is planned for August 19 and the site plan will be finalized in September.