In what marks the official transition from a polluted industrial site into a modern residential neighborhood in Missoula's urban core, a ribbon-cutting ceremony opened the first Polleys Square condominium building in the Old Sawmill District on Thursday.

The first residents of the 23-unit building on Wyoming Street also moved in, marking the first commercial activity and the first time people have been able to live at the site near the Clark Fork River in decades. Once an integral part of Missoula’s economic growth, the last vestiges of the mill were vacated more than 20 years ago.

The first condo building – three more are planned – is part of what will eventually be $250 million in redevelopment at the site, the largest urban infill project in Montana history. The developers, Ed and Leslie Wetherbee along with their business partner Kevin Mytty, hope to entice tenants to the condos with high-end amenities including underground parking and one-gigabit fiber broadband service.

“Several of the residents at Polley's Square will be working remotely from their home offices, so having gigabit fiber service will really enhance their experience,” said Ed Wetherbee. “In the very few other places in the country where this type of service has been available, individual homeowners and companies have found it to have tremendous value.”

In all, 22 descendants of Edgar Polleys, the owner of the original sawmill, were on hand for the ceremony. Polley became famous for keeping the mill open during the Great Depression even though he was losing money, because he didn’t want people to lose jobs.

The Dog & Bicycle Bakery Café, owned by Malcolm Lowe and Megan O'Dell, the owners of the Loose Caboose coffee shops around town, is now the commercial tenant on the ground floor of Polley’s Square A. Polley’s Square B is under construction and scheduled to open a few months down the road.

Other projects slated for the site include a student housing project, an executive-style apartment building, a 55-and-older project, a neighborhood grocery store, a fitness center, office space and perhaps a restaurant.

“I think we’re all proud as heck,” Ed Wetherbee said. “It’s been a lot of work and an amazing amount of detail and a lot of coordination between a lot of people. And to see the faces of the buyers and to see how the architects were pleased that it came together, it feels really nice.”

Construction on Polley’s Square C will start in late October. Wetherbee said there are four units available in A, and about half the units in B are under contract.

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