The old Firestone tire shop building at 139 E. Main St. in downtown Missoula will most likely soon be transformed into a four-story, 27-unit high-end condominium building with 10,000-square-feet of ground-floor retail space, underground parking and rooftop terraces. It will be called the "Firestone Flats."
Jessie Eagen, of Eagen Real Estate in Missoula, said he’s working with a group of local developers who he isn’t ready to name. The property is under contract, but they haven’t yet finalized floor plans or applied to the city for a commercial building permit.
“The project is going to happen,” he said. “We’ve done quite a bit of market research, and there’s a big void, a big need and want for a downtown housing project like this.”
The owner of the building, Peter McCay of Missoula, shared a detailed architectural rendering of the project with the Missoulian.
“I’ve had a lot of projects that didn’t come to fruition with this building in the past, but I’m pretty confident this is the real deal,” he explained. “I’m really excited. We’re going to make it look like something that the city can be proud of when they see it. People will say ‘Whoa, this is good and it fits in.’ There’s still a bit of tweaking to be done, but it will be really nice.”
The size of each unit will be market-driven, but they will be between 800 and 1,200-square-feet each.
Eagen said that the interior finish of the condos will dictate the price, but he pointed out that the new Polleys Square condominiums in the Old Sawmill District are fetching roughly $330 per square foot and the condos above the Wilma Theater are roughly $600 per square foot. He expects Firestone Flats to fall somewhere in that range.
“The interior units might be way more affordable, because they might not have corner windows,” Eagen said. “The upper story will have potentially 18- to 20-foot-high ceilings. It’s going to be actually really cool, you get nice views in Grant Creek and the Rattlesnake.”
On Thursday, Eagen posted to his public Facebook page that full details, availability, floor plans and pricing will be available May 1. The expected completion date, if everything goes according to plan, is spring 2017.
“My phone has literally rung off the hook since I posted that,” he said. “The deal is we don’t have a whole lot of info. at this time, but we wanted to see what people’s interest was. It’s not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but originally we looked at preserving the original building. Our structural engineers determined there was no way the current structure would support going up three more floors. It doesn’t make economical sense. It’s just not feasible. But we did look at that from the very get-go.”
Eagen said he can tell just by the “overwhelming” interest he’s received on social media that people are clamoring for downtown living.
“I remember when they offered the Wilma condos, those sold out right away,” he said. “People are calling me right now to do reservations, but I can’t yet. It’s three blocks from a great gym, The Peak, and every bar or restaurant you want is within walking distance. So other than the Wilma there is no new downtown housing project.”
Eagen said that if the Bozeman developer that wants to build a five-story hotel at the site of the Missoula Mercantile next door gets a demolition permit, that project will block the southern views of his project. However, he won’t mind.
“I support the proposal for the Merc because it’s going to be such a boon for downtown,” he said. “I love downtown Missoula, my office is down here, but you can’t save every building.”
The 11,000-square-foot basement in the Firestone building was originally used to park cars, Eagen said, so it won’t need to be excavated. However, most of it is literally rotting, which reinforced their engineers’ decision that the entire structure needs to be demolished.
The building has a history of failed deals. At the peak of the economic boom right before the Great Recession, a group of developers vacated the Radio Central building directly to the west, and the building west of that now houses the Hub, on Higgins. The entire half-block was slated to become a boutique hotel. Then the economic downturn hit, and the project failed. Eagen still has the Radio Central building for sale.
McCay said he was in serious discussions to house several distilleries, a brewery and restaurant, but those projects also fell through.
McCay said he became the owner through a tangled legal mess after a loan default, but now he’s excited for its future.
“I fell in love with this building and the people I’ve met through it,” he said. “I’ve really made a lot of friends.”
He said there are no solid offers for a tenant in the ground-floor retail space, but there has been interest in the past for a restaurant in that space.
“I think it’s past time that building was brought up to date, so to speak,” he concluded.
Jacob Noah, the owner of Noah's Fabric and Boats, is the current tenant in the building. He and his employees do custom work and repair on everything from aircraft to boats to upholstery.
"We're not going out of business at all, we're just moving," Noah said. "We are looking for a permanent location, hopefully downtown, if it's possible."