The owners of Tremper's Shopping Center near Malfunction Junction are planning a major $4.4 million remodel and improvement to three buildings at 1200 W. Kent Ave. north of Albertsons.

In April, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s board approved assisting the developers with up to $226,000 in Tax Increment Financing for deconstruction and demolition of the GrimeBusters laundromat building and improvements to the public right-of-way.

The board also approved up to $150,000 in Façade Improvement Financing grant assistance to add exterior elements such as energy-efficient glass and doors.

The developers intend to remove the laundromat building to create parking. They will also renovate the interiors and exteriors of the remaining buildings to accommodate current retail, service and office design standards, according to MRA assistant director Chris Behan.

“The 1980s strip mall exterior façade will be removed from all buildings including awnings and sign walls, and replaced with a contemporary design,” he told the board. “Although not a large new building, the project will significantly change the streetscape and upgrade both the pedestrian experience in the neighborhood and as seen from the shopping center and Brooks Street.”

Behan added that the area is a hub of activity with the nearby popular shopping center and a U.S. Post Office headquarters. It’s served by two major transportation arterials, Brooks and Russell Streets.

“Other than the shopping center and upgrades of two coffee businesses, there has been little redevelopment of the considerable commercial property in the neighborhood east of Russell Street between Brooks Street and North Avenue,” he said. “This project may serve to create more commercial interest in the area which, along with community access by way of the arterial streets, is near a large residential neighborhood west of Russell Street which could serve as a customer base for certain businesses.”

Although the shopping center is a highly visible site, Behan said it has “unfortunately not been viable for most businesses” for many years due to lack of off-street parking, inappropriate sizing and poor accessibility to internal business spaces.

“With a few exceptions, the buildings have been chronically vacant for two decades, which led owners to keep rents artificially low and forgo updating internal infrastructure, regular preventative maintenance, and updating spaces to meet demands of new business trends,” Behan explained. “This project proposes to reverse those obstacles though major renovation, adding some additional space to one building and solve the parking and business accessibility issues through demolition of one of the buildings.”

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