Consumer Direct unveiled plans Wednesday to build a $21 million office building in a new business park taking shape at a former industrial site on North Reserve Street near Interstate 90.
At the same time, Bretz RV and Marine announced plans to expand its showroom in the same location, and a representative of the business park said Costco could soon join the growing development.
Another city official confirmed last week that Costco is planning to relocate, though calls to the company have not been returned and no timeline has been given.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency's board of directors, staff members expressed concern that interest in the new urban renewal district was getting ahead of the city’s planning efforts.
“We’ve talked about a master plan, but Bretz and Consumer Direct are out in front of us,” said Ellen Buchanan, executive director of MRA. “There are some speculative things going on out there that aren’t real yet, but that would all be part of that master plan process.”
The city approved an urban renewal district for the North Reserve and Scott Street area last year, citing 900 acres of undeveloped or underutilized land. Of the 889 acres within the district, 420 currently lie within the city limits.
The availability of tax increment financing played a role in bringing Consumer Direct to build at its chosen location.
Ben Bledsoe, president and CEO of Consumer Direct, said the company has grown rapidly in recent years and is looking to build its headquarters.
“Through all that growth, we’ve expanded across Missoula into five locations,” Bledsoe said. “Those rents have piled up and we decided we wanted to get back into one central location.”
The company’s Missoula headquarters oversees 18 companies across 12 states, Bledsoe said. The firm has been shopping around for an office location and originally planned on building a 50,000-square-foot building.
But Bledsoe said the plans have since expanded to 65,000 square feet, all contained within a four-story building unveiled to MRA on Wednesday.
“We grow 15 to 20 percent every year and issue a $5 million payroll every two weeks,” Bledsoe said. “We’re recommitting to Missoula and Montana as a whole.”
Consumer Direct currently employs 275 workers and plans on adding another 125 jobs within four years. Bank of Montana has committed to financing the $21 million project.
Tom Swenson, CEO of Bank of Montana, said TIF funding is integral to Consumer Direct's project. Infrastructure costs currently stand at $459,000 – a price tag that includes nearly $200,000 to expand Howard Raser Drive further east, and $119,000 to build Consumer Direct Drive.
Both roads, along with a $33,000 water main extension and $100,000 in utility work, would set the stage for future development in the new Howard Raser Business Park Subdivision, which will also include the expansion of Bretz RV and Marine.
Scott Johnson, representing both Consumer Direct and Bretz, said the RV and marine dealer plans on adding a 15,000-square-foot showroom and customer parking lot to the north end of its current building.
Like Consumer Direct, Bretz is also looking for MRA support in making improvements to Old Grant Creek Road. The business is currently on a well, but plans to connect with city services.
“We’re asking for help for the water main and improvements along Old Grant Creek Road,” Johnson said, adding that the work includes a $4 million increase in appraisal value. “We’re planning on breaking ground in April.”
Holding up a map of the planned development, Johnson said Costco had purchased property just south of Bretz. Calls to Costco’s real estate office have not been returned.
"We barely got the ink dry on creating this (TIF) district and we’ve already got these two huge projects going in," said Karl Englund, an MRA board member.