The Missoula Redevelopment Agency approved $147,000 in tax increment financing Wednesday for a team of developers ready to build a 60-unit apartment complex where Hansen’s Trailer Park once sat, but only after directing staff to strengthen the agency’s relocation program.
Fishmore Associates requested the TIF funding to help offset the cost of installing new sidewalks, drain sumps, landscaping and relocating fiber optic lines underground at the project site, located at 555 S. Catlin Street.
“The bulk of that cost is in the sidewalks,” said Chris Behan, assistant MRA director. “There’s a substantial drop-off between the sidewalk and the street. Any sidewalk that goes in there will need a railing.”
Construction of the new Midtown Apartments in the rapidly changing neighborhood near Third and Russell streets carries a $4.9 million price tag.
MRA anticipates a net increase in property taxes of roughly $40,000 annually once the project is finished.
“One of the reasons we picked this particular site is because of the location to services,” said Mike Priske, a member of Fishmore Associates. “It has good access east and west, north and south. We also liked the proximity to the trail system.”
The project is slated for completion next May and Fishmore has agreed to set aside 10 percent of the apartment’s 60 units for five years as low-income housing.
The five-year period will run from the date of occupancy, MRA said.
“It’s a value of about $54,000, in their estimation,” said Behan. “It’s a re-contribution to save housing for very low-income residents, or the kind of folks that were moved.”
Last summer, an estimated 19 residents living in mobile homes in Hansen’s Trailer Park were evicted from the property, clearing the way for redevelopment of the site that also saw construction of Autozone.
MRA board member Rosalie Cates expressed concerns with the developer’s pledge to set aside 10 percent of their units to accommodate low-income residents, saying the $54,000 value doesn’t compare to relocation costs.
“I’m concerned about that,” said Cates. “They’re getting off extremely inexpensively in comparison to the 20 people who got moved. I’d like to send a strong signal that we’re committed to the relocation program.”
MRA staff said relocation mandates only kick in during the demolition and acquisition phase, and Fishmore Associates didn’t seek assistance during either process.
Cates approved giving the developers TIF assistance, but only after asking MRA staff to bring forward a modern relocation policy that can be used to guide future projects.
“We’ll deal with this down the road, my friends,” Cates said. “We really need to look at this.”
Priske agreed that clarification would help give developers a better idea of what they’re required to do, and at what stage of the process. He added that Fishmore intended to honor its 10 percent pledge.
“This proposal that we’ve made, if you were to put something that has teeth in it, we’d have no problem with that,” said Priske. “We’re certainly agreeable to that. We’re committed to the community, and we believe we’re trying to make Missoula a better place.”
He said other developers have not made a similar pledge.