Clay Street Micro Apartments

An architectural rendering of the new Clay Street Micro Apartments, which will be located downtown near the Holiday Inn Downtown.

A developer is building a new 22-unit apartment building in downtown Missoula, and has been approved for up to $211,000 in Tax Increment Financing assistance from the city for infrastructure improvements.

Construction on the Clay Street Micro Apartments is expected to begin this year, and owner Jesse Dodson of University Avenue Developers was approved last month for the TIF help.

The money went to deconstruct the existing structures as much as possible, to avoid sending material to the landfill. The TIF also went to sidewalk, curb and gutter construction and alley paving, water line work and the implementation of modern power infrastructure for the high-density apartments.

“I don’t like the term micro apartments,” Dodson told the MRA board. “There will be approximately 22 studio and one-bedroom apartments. The studios will range from 300 to 400 square feet.” He did not give an estimate of what rent might be.

Dodson said that he’s worked with local architects in town to make sure the space inside each unit feels larger than it is, using modern tricks.

“They’ll feel better and have high ceilings,” he said. “They’ll utilize a lot of space.”

Dodson previously completed a group of five high-end townhouses on the same lot overlooking the Clark Fork River, and those homes all sold out. Ellen Buchanan, the director of the MRA, said she estimates both the townhomes and the apartments will generate between $13,000 and $17,000 more in new property taxes than the older housing that was previously on the site.

Those new taxes go to the Front Street Urban Renewal District. The MRA oversees the new property taxes and uses the money for projects that ostensibly benefit the public and spur economic development and investment.

“The nearby neighborhood is currently experiencing considerable construction activity including other smaller apartment and townhouse projects, the large student housing project, as well as the Conflux Brewing, new library, and Mercantile Hotel,” noted MRA assistant director Chris Behan in a memo to the MRA board. “It is likely that the trend to renovate existing housing and develop new residential opportunities will continue in the neighborhood for some time."

He said that's due to the neighborhood’s proximity to both downtown shopping and entertainment opportunities and the University.

"It is likely that as the residential sector grows, additional retail and service businesses will also continue to develop," Behan added.

Missoula’s Downtown Master Plan calls for more high-density housing in the downtown area, to reduce commuting and traffic congestion.

“The townhouse phase in particular addresses the Front Street Urban Renewal District Plan’s recommendation to encourage a variety of housing in the neighborhood,” Behan continued. “Currently, the area has one of the highest percentages of rental units in Missoula. The Plan encourages a variety of housing types in order to create a more vibrant community neighborhood by establishing some feeling of permanence and stability along with the more transitory occupants."

Behan said the design works well, although the older buildings on the lot that were deconstructed had water damage and couldn't be repurposed.

"Although the project does not include re-use of structures or a design that reflects the history of the area, it does fit the more modern design trend of recent and ongoing construction in the southern portion of the downtown area.”

Behan said that using public money to fund power infrastructure upgrades will save the city money in the long run.

“The improvement in power capacity and efficiency will be a requirement for future development in the neighborhood east of Kiwanis Park,” he said.

The MRA also approved $629,000 in TIF assistance for reconstruction of Wyoming Street from Prince Avenue to California Street. The plan calls for reconstructing the street with new sidewalks, pedestrian-scale street lighting and a new water main. The street currently lacks sidewalks, gutters and curbs in many areas, and is a major collector street now that it goes all the way from Russell Street to the Old Sawmill District.

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