As hundreds of millions of dollars worth of development takes place in or around downtown Missoula, city leaders are encouraging the public to share their thoughts on everything from parking to housing as they plan for future growth.
The Downtown Missoula Partnership is kicking off what it calls the “community visioning process” Thursday, Oct. 18, one of the first steps in updating the Downtown Master Plan. All members of the community are invited to a presentation from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Wilma Theater, which will be the first of many occasions to offer input during the year-long planning process that DMP executive director Linda McCarthy said will “redefine the future of downtown Missoula.”
“It’s an update to the Downtown Master Plan, but in a lot of ways it’s kind of modernizing it,” she said. “We really want to see a concerted effort on downtown housing. Of course, parking will always be a key thing. But we’re looking at business development, what kinds of retail stores we want to see, transportation infrastructure, the arts, parks, everything.”
The DMP has hired an urban planning firm called Dover, Kohl & Partners to guide the Missoula community through a reassessment of the 2009 Downtown Master Plan. McCarthy said the firm and its sub-consultants have 30 years of experience in economic development, historic preservation, parks, housing, transportation and public engagement.
“It is an exciting time for our community as we assemble together for this very important visioning for our future,” said Tim France, owner of Worden’s Market and president of the Downtown Business Improvement District Board of Directors. “Downtown is the heart of Missoula, and everyone who lives here is vested in this place. It is what defines us and sets us apart from anywhere USA.
"Our community’s engagement in updating the strategic plan for Downtown is essential and valued, as we continue to build on this vibrant city center for centuries to come."
France said he hopes as many people as possible voice their opinions.
"We want to fill every seat in the Wilma on Oct. 18 and learn firsthand what the community wants Downtown Missoula to be 10 years from now," he said.
Representatives from DK&P will be at the Wilma on Oct. 18, and they’ll be meeting with other groups in town over the course of three days to solicit feedback.
McCarthy has said there’s about $850 million in development either underway or planned in and around Missoula’s downtown, including plans for a new hotel and conference center at the Riverfront Triangle and a new hotel under construction on Higgins. With companies like ClassPass hiring 100 workers and hinting at plans to hire 75 more to work downtown, there will be a need for more workforce housing.
The consultants will come back January 14-18 for a five-day planning stretch, McCarthy said, followed by another in April or May for vetting the plan. There will be a fourth visit in mid- to late summer.
“The plan will be put in front of the city council and multiple boards,” she said.