The owners of Lolo Peak Brewery have backed out of plans to build a two-story brewpub at the site of the Old Sawmill District in central Missoula.
But the developers are still set on moving forward with $250 million in new construction at the former industrial site over the next five years, keeping it on track to be the largest urban redevelopment project in Montana history.
Pat Offen, who owns Lolo Peak Brewery in Lolo along with his business partner Al Zepeda, announced last summer they would be building an 8,000-square-foot restaurant at the site. However, between now and then their plans have changed.
Offen declined to explain why they pulled out, saying only that he and Zepeda are taking a lot of factors into consideration. He said he may be ready to announce different plans later this year.
That doesn’t mean things are slowing down at the Old Sawmill District.
Developers Ed Wetherbee, his wife Leslie and their business partner, Kevin Mytty, are working to find another business to take the place of Lolo Peak Brewery for the block located between Wyoming Street and the new Silver Park, a stone’s throw from the baseball stadium.
“We’re in the process of looking for a brewpub or a restaurant or something we think could be complementary to everything else we’re doing, but will also take advantage of all the activities here, being by the trail and the stadium,” Wetherbee said.
“We think it’s a great spot. We’re not in any hurry. We’re looking for just the right thing there,'' he said. "We call that our food and beverage block and we’ve got some conceptual designs on the buildings there.”
The developers will be holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new 20-unit, high-end condominium building, Polleys Square A, on July 28.
A second condo building, Polleys Square B, is currently under construction and should be completed about four months after that. Two more condominium buildings, Polleys Square C and D, will follow to the south.
All have underground parking, and there will be a shared outdoor common area between all of them. A new coffee shop, called The Dog & Bicycle Bakery Cafe, should be open by September in the ground floor of Polleys A.
By August, Wetherbee said crews also will be breaking ground on another four-story complex, Cambium Place, just to the west of the condo buildings.
“Cambium will be a mixed-use building with underground parking, about three-quarters residential with very nice executive-style, upper-end apartments that are kind of new to Missoula,” Wetherbee said. “But we’re taking the concept from other projects we’ve seen around the country and we’re excited about that.”
That building will have 30,000 square feet of retail and office space.
“It’s the central place in our larger project here,” he said. “We’ve designated the corner (of the building) for a neighborhood market with a neighborhood fitness center right next to that. It’ll be a real great neighborhood corner.”
Plans for the site also include a new student housing complex, which will eventually be built to the east of Polleys Square B. The condo buildings combined with Cambium Place and the student housing represent about $75 million in new construction, Wetherbee said. There will eventually also be a 150-unit housing complex for people age 55 and over.
“All of this we hope to have in motion within 12 months,” Wetherbee said. “And most of them are 18-24 month construction projects. So the next three years will be a busy time here.”
As for the condo buildings, Wetherbee said that they’ve updated their plans based on customer feedback. Buyers have seemed more willing to pay for larger units, so they’ve changed their construction to reflect that.
The work underway so far has provided about 200 full-time equivalent construction jobs, he estimated.
The 46 acres of land south of the river between California Street and the railroad bridge was for many years an abandoned, polluted former lumber mill. For Wetherbee, it’s been a nearly 15-year process to get it cleaned up and redeveloped, so he’s excited to finally see concrete progress.
“In a lot of ways it’s a very private project,” he said. “But the fact that it’s such a redevelopment project in the middle of the city – and over the years we’ve had a lot of involvement and help from the city and the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and others to take care of all the old mess that was here - it makes it a public project in a lot of ways. So we’re excited to share the story and excited to see what’s happening.”