A long-range vision of transforming Russell Street into a Market Square is moving right along, said Missoula Housing Authority director Peter Hance.
“We're in the process of getting a co-developer on board," he said. “We hope to break ground in the spring on the first group of 36 units."
The vision involves the former Intermountain Lumber Co. lot, which covers a bit more than 12 acres just north of Silvercrest, the Salvation Army's low-cost senior housing development. The MHA has renamed the Intermountain site Market Square.
The Housing Authority bought the site for a net cost of about $2.8 million in 2001. The authority paid for the land with proceeds from the sale of about 45 units of public housing it had owned. The MHA has used those funds to build, among other housing units, the Valor House for homeless veterans.
Hance said his goal is to continue to leverage MHA funds to provide much more affordable housing in Missoula. A centerpiece is the plan for the Intermountain site. It includes a 1.5-acre green space. Four- and five-story buildings will front Russell with no setbacks, the way buildings front the commercial stretches of Higgins Avenue.
Retail commercial space will be available on the ground floor. A mix of offices and residential units will be housed in the upper stories. Behind the buildings on Russell will be a 20,000-square-foot community center.