It’ll be interesting to see what unfolds outside the Missoula Art Museum this summer. Think sculptures, dancers and people watching. Or, if you will, imagine reading a good book on a lazy Saturday afternoon while sipping coffee under a shade tree.
Museum director Laura Millin and partners have spent the past year working to design a new art park and plaza on the corner of Pine and Pattee streets between the museum and Adventure Cycling.
The bad news is, the final designs aren’t quite ready.
The good news it, they should be any day.
“We are probably just a little ways away still from being ready for that story,” Millin told me last week. “We’re waiting for the drawings and should have them any day.”
The museum closed its call for landscape architects and engineers back in October 2013. Since then, they’ve been working to make the project a reality and bring an urban-style plaza to the downtown core.
As envisioned early in the process, the park would create a “vibrant and engaging outdoor space” where sculpture and performing art will stay on display. The plaza will also include plants and public seating – that’s where the good book with coffee comes in.
“We completed the design review and have made design alterations,” Millin added. “We’ll go out for a second round to get the final stamp of approval from folks around town.”
Last year, the park came up in discussion at a meeting of the Downtown Business Improvement District’s board of directors, where a local building owner expressed concern over the potential loss of parking.
But Ginny Merriam, the city’s communications director, said the challenges have since been overcome through the plaza’s redesign and hard work by the Missoula Parking Commission.
As the countdown continues for the plan's release, the art park is just one of several projects to watch this year. The list gets longer every day.
Missoula College will break ground this month, and Stockman Bank will begin erecting its six-story building on Orange and West Broadway this summer.
Between the two multimillion-dollar projects, developers behind the proposed Fox Hotel are teaming up with Lambros Developments to build a 500-bed student housing project on Front Street. Next month, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency will also take the next step in turning Front and Main into two-way travel.
If you missed it, the Top Hat – which sits on Front – also plans to expand its trendy business. The vision includes rooftop seating. That’s not a bad way to spend a summer afternoon when coffee gives way to beer.
With the Montgomery Distillery across the street – and the Dolack Gallery and other attractions already in place – that stretch of Front Street is quickly becoming a nouveau district moving toward trendy.
The action comes as a relative surprise for a city that was still shrugging off the recession early last year. But now, the city’s Development Services is projecting $190 million in commercial activity in 2015. Those projects are already on the books and ready to go.
Those in the know have said $400 million in commercial building is possible – hinting of an expansion of Southgate Mall, a new office building at St. Patrick Hospital, Costco moving to a new location, and Consumer Direct building a $26 million office off North Reserve Street.
Some have even quoted CTA Architects as saying Missoula could see $1 billion in commercial development over the next five to seven years. I tried calling CTA on Friday for their thoughts, but no one was around to take my call.
At any rate, stay tuned as the construction season unfolds. Along the way, take a mental picture of the city as it stands. Five years from now, Missoula may look a lot different than it does today.