The pace of new construction in Missoula so far in 2017 isn’t quite as hot as it was by this point last year, but some big projects in the works could move the needle quite a bit.
In the first four months of this year, the city’s Development Services staff issued 453 building permits for projects with a total construction market value of $54.9 million. That means the city would have to issue permits worth $195 million in the next eight months to break 2016’s record of $250 million.
However, this April saw almost double the amount of new construction compared to the same month last year. The city permitted new projects worth a total market value of $19.3 last month, compared to $10.2 million worth in April 2016.
Mike Haynes, the director of the city’s Development Services office, said his staff is reviewing a number of major projects that could push the number quite a bit higher in the next few months.
“I would say that we are reviewing the same number of plans and issuing the same number of permits (as last year),” he said. “As I say to City Council on a regular basis, those numbers are driven, to a large degree, by very large projects and we have not had any significantly large projects in the first four months of the year. But I would say development activity is still very healthy. Check back in a couple months, and you may see those numbers change dramatically.”
Haynes said plans are under review for several big ventures, including a huge new student housing complex called U-Global in the Old Sawmill District, an addition to Hellgate High School and a new Garden City Plumbing and Heating building on West Broadway.
Missoula’s housing prices have skyrocketed 27.2 percent since 2010 to a record median sales price of $255,000 last year. The biggest factor cited by developers, real estate agents and city officials is a lack of inventory.
It appears that developers have responded so far this year, as 202 new residential building permits have been issued since January. That includes 91 single-family homes, eight duplexes and 95 multifamily units. That’s on pace to slightly break last year’s record of 775 total residential building permits.
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Eran Pehan, the director of the city’s newly formed Housing and Community Development office, said that any additions to the market will positively affect the housing situation.
“We are having a significant supply issue in Missoula with housing,” she said. “There is still a high demand for single-family homes for those making over 120 percent of adjusted median income. However, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. If we really want to see stabilization of the housing market, we need options for all income levels, which we can only accomplish through adding diversity to the market.”
Pehan said that in addition to single-family homes, Missoula needs more condos, townhomes, affordable rentals and shared equity models like community land trusts.
“Ultimately, all hardworking Missoulians should have access to safe homes, and we really need to keep approaching this from all angles to make sure that happens,” she said.
Some of the larger projects permitted this year include 60 multifamily units at the Halling Farms Apartments on West Mullan Road, a project worth $4.8 million. Also, 25 multifamily units are under construction on the 200 block of Hickory Street, a $2.7 million project.
Some large commercial projects also have been approved. A big remodeling job is underway to accommodate a new wholesale grocery store called Cash & Carry at 2501 Brooks St. The new $1.6 million Onyx Maps building at 1920 Stephens Ave. is under construction, as is a new $1 million, four-unit commercial building at 2755 North Reserve St.
The Missoula Textiles building is going through a $500,000 remodel at 2600 Charlo St. and a permit has been issued for a new service and storage building at Bretz RV. St. Patrick Hospital is working on a $2 million addition to its third floor, and the University of Montana Liberal Arts building is going through a $1.7 million remodel.
Haynes said that the 91 single-family homes that have been approved are scattered across the city and aren’t part of any major subdivision.