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Mercantile debate effectively over as preservationists agree to end appeal

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Proposed new Marriott in downtown Missoula

A conceptual design of the Residence Inn by Marriott that Bozeman developer is building at the site of the historic but recently-demolished Missoula Mercantile in downtown Missoula. 

The great debate over the fate of the historic Missoula Mercantile building may finally be over.

Preservation activists agreed Friday not to appeal a district judge's decision that upheld issuance of a demolition permit for the building in downtown Missoula.

The decision effectively clears the way for developers to replace the Merc with a five-story, $35 million hotel and retail center.

Last summer, the Missoula City Council voted to issue a partial demolition permit to the Bozeman developers of the project, reversing a previous vote by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Members of the local preservation group Preserve Historic Missoula appealed the City Council’s vote to Missoula County District Court, asking it to examine whether the council went against city policies in its decision.

Judge Robert “Dusty” Deschamps issued a ruling Tuesday siding with the city, developer Andy Holloran and the current owners of the building, Octagon Partners, which allowed the demolition permit to be granted.

On Friday, the preservation group, the city, the developer and the building's owner filed a joint stipulation agreeing not to appeal Deschamps’ decision and asking him to dismiss the case.

James Bowditch, the attorney for Octagon Partners, said his clients as well as Holloran and the city negotiated with the preservation group and agreed not to hold them responsible for court costs if Preserve Historic Missoula agreed to drop its right to appeal.

“In a case like this, the prevailing party is allowed to recover certain costs,” Bowditch said, adding that examples include their court filing fees and the costs associated with conducting depositions. Recoverable costs would not have included attorney’s fees, which were always up to each party to pay.

Bowditch said his understanding is that the partial demolition permit, which mandates that the pharmacy portion of the building be saved, already has been issued since Deschamps’ ruling. The only remaining step is for Holloran’s company to officially buy the Mercantile from Octagon Partners, a deal Bowditch said should be closed within the next week or two.

Michael Doggett, the attorney for Preserve Historic Missoula, did not return a request for comment Friday afternoon. Deschamps has not yet signed a proposed order dismissing the case that was filed with the stipulation on Friday.

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