The Missoula Redevelopment Agency has hired a contractor to study blight in areas of the city and set the stage for possible renovations in the years ahead.
Ellen Buchanan, executive director of MRA, said the agency’s request for proposals, issued Dec. 4, resulted in two firms looking to conduct the study.
One came from Applied Communications, based in Whitefish, while the other was submitted by Community Development Services of Montana, based in Butte.
After reviewing the applicants, the MRA board selected Community Development Services to carry out the work at a cost of no more than $20,000.
Buchanan said the firm had more experience, having helped establish 15 other tax increment financing districts across the state.
“If adequate blight is found and the (city) council agrees, we’ll have them create two new tax increment districts,” said Buchanan. “It’s the strongest economic development tool cities and counties have available to them in Montana.”
The Missoula City Council gave MRA the green light in late October to study two portions of the city for blight, including areas north of the railroad tracks between North Reserve and Scott streets.
The second area, often referred to as a gateway to Missoula, covers areas south of Interstate 90 between Madison Street and the planned location of Missoula College on East Broadway.
Construction on the $32 million college is expected to begin in late 2014. Many expect the project to set the stage for further redevelopment of Missoula’s east end.
“We will have the studies done in six months, along with urban renewal plans,” Buchanan said. “The City Council will then consider passing an ordinance creating the districts.”
The tax increment financing districts help direct any growth in new property taxes generated within a defined boundary toward redevelopment, such as the district established in downtown Missoula between 1980 and 2005.
During that time, Buchanan said, the downtown district generated $20 million in financing, leveraging $200 million in other investments within the boundary.
Those investments included the Van Buren Street pedestrian bridge, Caras Park and other building projects in downtown Missoula.
“All of the growth in property taxes is reinvested back into the districts,” Buchanan said. “It’s a powerful tool.”