"It's the best I've ever seen."
That's how Jason Nuckolls describes the quality of timber he and his crew have found so far inside of the Missoula Mercantile building. Nuckolls is the deconstruction manager at Home ReSource, a local nonprofit that salvages and resells building materials.
He and his crew are in the midst of the largest project they've ever undertaken – the deconstruction of the 80,000-square-foot Missoula Mercantile, and he estimates they're already 30 percent to 40 percent done. Most of the roof is off, and the second story has been opened to the sky.
Nuckolls and his crew will work all the way down to the basement, removing beams, flooring, pipes and timber before the outer walls are taken down in about a month. The Mercantile is being replaced with a five-story Marriott hotel, but the pharmacy portion on the northwest corner is being preserved.
It was exactly one year ago on March 3 that a Bozeman developer, Andy Holloran, first unveiled his proposal for the hotel that was met with opposition from local historic preservationists, who wanted to see the 140-year-old building repurposed. In the end though, the Missoula City Council determined that all reasonable economic use of the building would be prevented if it didn't grant a demolition permit with several conditions.
Nuckolls estimates that there will be "hundreds of thousands" of linear feet of timber removed from the building. Eventually, most of it will be available at the Home ReSource store on Russell Street for reuse.
"It will go into a lot of residential and commercial projects around the area," he said. "These materials have been important to the community for a long time, and now they'll be used in a different way."
Nuckolls said it took about four days for his crew to remove three feet of snow from the roof, and they had to stop unloading it from the south side because of the instability of the brick wall. He said the progress on the building has really gone off without a hitch so far. It's a project many times bigger than he and his crew have ever dealt with, and they've encountered a bonanza of materials that he knows the community will be excited to repurpose.
"I've had dreams about this building," he said.