At least one new business is already in the works for the still-under-construction portion of Russell Street near the Clark Fork River.

Blackfoot River Outfitters has purchased the building at 235 North Russell and plans to demolish it and build a new 8,000-square-foot fishing, adventure and retail store with lease spots for professional services and a coffee shop.

The building, which currently has a "WOW Cleaning" sign next to it, is located just down the street from Bayern Brewing. In the past it has housed everything from a cleaning supply store to a used car lot.

On Thursday, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency approved a request from the owners, John Herzer and Terri Raugland, for permission to move ahead with deconstruction work prior to submitting a formal application for Tax Increment Financing assistance.

“When their design and financing is complete, they intend to submit a Tax Increment Financing Program application for removal of the existing building, clearing the site of asphalt, concrete slabs, etc. for development as parking for the retail stores,” explained MRA assistant director Chris Behan.

The company store is currently on North Reserve Street, and the owners plan to relocate the business and expand with a tentative opening date of November 2019. The owners are hoping to lease a portion of the new building once the Montana Department of Transportation is done remodeling that portion of Russell Street to make it safer and more accessible for cars, bicyclists and pedestrians.

“We think it will be attractive to other investors too,” Herzer told the MRA board. “It’s wonderful that that street’s changing its look. We look forward to being one of the first people to spark that region.”

The MRA’s board also approved spending up to $18,709 in Tax Increment Financing for design preparation and construction administration for the Bitterroot Trail Pine Street Link. That’s a portion of the Bitterroot Trail bike/pedestrian path between West Broadway and Toole Avenue that is not complete because of complicated right-of-way issues.

“The trail will link existing trails to the south and north,” Behan said. “The project also includes pedestrian scale lighting on the trail between Broadway and Toole Avenue along with more accessible sidewalks intersecting the trail from the east and west.”

The money will go to WGM Group, who absorbed $15,000 of costs but requested the rest of the money.

Ruth Reineking, and MRA board member, said she’s glad that portion will get updated lighting.

Ellen Buchanan, the director of the MRA, said that particular portion of railroad tracks has been a spot that’s been neglected.

“We had a downtown Business Improvement District officer who went down there in hazmat gear and carried two truckloads of trash out of there,” she said. “So it’s pretty rough.”

In a director’s report to the board, Buchanan said there’s a lot of interest in the North Reserve/Scott Street Urban Renewal District lately. The MRA has used TIF funds to aid private developers building housing in the area in the past, and Buchanan said it’s likely more of those types of projects could pop up.

“The eastern portion of the White Pine property owned by Scott Street Partners has been cleaned up to residential standards and is on the market,” she explained. “Several potential purchasers have approached MRA to discuss residential development possibilities. There are other properties in that area that will be candidates for redevelopment as housing in the near future.”

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