MISSOULA — Plans to develop nine acres of city-owned land off Scott Street with a blend of affordable and market-rate housing continue to inch forward, though changes to zoning and parking requirements may be required as the project advances.
Members of Ravara LLC said the development remains in design, but details are beginning to emerge and will require solutions before a final plan is created.
“We were challenged over the course of the summer to do a massing project, figuring out where the buildings were going to go and what the open space was going to look like,” said Dawn McGee with the development team. “We haven’t gotten to architectural details on the buildings themselves. There’s still a number of pending issues we’re trying to sort through as we work through the project.”
Those issues largely surround city requirements on parking. As designed, the project includes a large central square placed near the center of the development. Much of the market-rate housing will sit around it, and affordable housing will sit just north.
In an effort to meet goals around affordability, providing underground parking may be cost-prohibitive. The developers are hoping to acquire shared parking to the south when the city begins to consolidate Public Works and Mountain Line on the adjoining 10 acres.
“We are working together with Ravara to identify how our Public Works facility and Mountain Line facility might fit into this area as well,” Public Works Director Jeremy Keen said of the city’s 10 acres.
“There’s some other pieces here we’re still working through to see how it will all fit. Getting Mountain Line into that picture is one of the challenges in terms of figuring out how that space gets allocated.”
If the city’s 10-acre development shares parking with the 9-acre housing development, the developers will be able to keep the central square as part of the project. The current design has received praise from both city officials and area residents, and they’re loathed to lose that open space.
“I’m hopeful we’ll get to the right place around parking to be able to keep this open space that we have,” said McGree. “We’re hopeful that the central square can stay in place. Due to building constraints and costs of doing underground parking, it may not be able to be. This is our highest, best aspiration.”
The city purchased 19 acres off Scott Street in 2020 for around $6.3 million, and it approved an agreement with Ravara in 2021 to develop 9 acres into a mixed-use housing project with an element of affordability.
The 9-acre project headed by Ravara currently includes a blend of condos and townhouses, market-rate apartments, a central square and a small retail center.
The townhouses and condos are proposed for a community land trust covering three acres. While the city challenged the developer to provide a minimum of 70 units on that portion of the development, developers are proposing slightly more, with 42 townhomes and 36 condos.
“We’ve increased density beyond the target goal, but that comes through using studios and one-bedroom units, and efficient use of space in the condo area to house a different population than what’s going to live in a two- or three-story townhome,” said team member Kiah Hochstetler.
Hochstetler said housing in that portion of the development will be reserved for those making 120% of the area median income. The team is working with the North Missoula Community Development Corp. to manage the land trust. It’s also working with Trust Montana to craft the rules and regulations governing the townhomes.
But the development includes more than housing. A daycare also is planned, along with a small grocery and food hall providing a number of different restaurants.
“We’re in conversation with an operator who would want to run a small neighborhood grocery there,” said Hochstetler. “There’s substantial amenities coming to this development.”
The project’s timeline remains uncertain.