Tom Winter townhomes

An architectural rendering of the townhomes proposed by Tom Winter.

A U.S. congressional candidate from Missoula plans to build eight to 10 three-story, high-end townhomes in downtown Missoula near the Clark Fork River.

On Thursday, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s board voted unanimously to allow Tom Winter to proceed with work on deconstructing the older houses at 322 Levasseur St.

Winter plans on submitting an application in July for Tax Increment Financing assistance for deconstruction of two buildings and for required public infrastructure upgrades at the site, and the Thursday vote allows him to move forward without prejudicing a future application.

Winter is a Democrat who represented Missoula’s House District 96 in the state Legislature this past session. He announced earlier this year that he’s running for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020, the seat currently occupied by Republican Greg Gianforte, who is running for governor.

Winter wasn’t at Thursday’s meeting.

“For some time, Tom Winter has been acquiring property on Levasseur Street east of the recently completed townhome project at the corner of Levasseur and Clay Street,” explained MRA assistant director Chris Behan. “He has determined that he will be able to obtain two of the three properties he sought.”

Behan said one of the two buildings on the site is structurally unsound and has become “very difficult” to secure from people breaking in to vandalize it, party and start fires.

“The Missoula Police Department has contacted Mr. Winter to say that they are not able to keep the building secure and asking him to remove it as soon as possible,” Behan said.

The board also voted to approve a request from the Woodbury Corp. to proceed with demolishing the old Best Bet Casino building at 3620 Brooks St. to make way for a new AT&T retail store. Woodbury Corp. is the company that developed the entire South Crossing site, which holds the Cabela’s and other businesses. Company representative Kraig Erickson also mentioned that Woodbury recently sold a large plot of land to the south to another unnamed company, and said the plans for that site are “very exciting” although he can’t announce anything yet.

The board also heard from architect David Gray of DVG Architecture and Planning. He’s been working with Nick Caras, the owner of the Radio Central Building on East Main Street downtown, on a project to tear off the sheet metal from the façade of the historic building to reveal its original stone pillars and windows.

“There’s beautiful stone columns,” Gray explained. “The masonry is in fantastic shape. It’s filthy, but there’s beautiful granite stonework. It’s probably one of the prettiest buildings in downtown. We found something that’s a real treasure on that street.”

Gray said they’ll probably ask for Façade Improvement Program funding in the future to help with the cost of removing the metal. He presented the board with architectural renderings and an old photo of what the original building looked like.

With the new Conflux Brewery down the street, a new Missoula Public Library being built a block away and plans for a new six-story AC by Marriott hotel next door, Gray said that section of downtown would benefit from a restored Radio Central Building.

“We would like to restore it but we’re gonna need your help to do it,” he said.

Behan told the board that funding in the Front Street Urban Renewal District is running low, but he hopes to work with Gray in the future to put a viable application before the board.

In the city’s Urban Renewal Districts, property taxes generated by new projects built since they were created are diverted away from the city’s general fund and used as Tax Increment Financing or Façade Improvement Program funds for projects that are supposed to benefit the public.

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