The University Area Historic District is a colorful and expansive representative of our community’s early history, with ties to the arrival of the railroad, the rise of the timber industry, the establishment of the University of Montana, the early presence of commerce and business, and the building of homes for the people of Missoula. Homes, churches, businesses, fraternity and sorority houses, and apartments provide a palpable sense of historic community along tree-lined boulevards.
The University Area Historic District was formally listed on the National Register of Historic Places in December, 2000. The historic nomination eloquently describes the significance of the neighborhood, which “reflects a history that grew increasingly entwined with the burgeoning University of Montana. A number of prominent Missoula residents made the University area their home and forged a link between the neighborhood and the business and university communities. Finally, it is the buildings themselves that define the neighborhood character. Homes in the district display a range of late 19th and early 20th century building styles, illustrating the design ideals of the period and the building patterns common in the young city of Missoula, Montana.”
Several of the homes threatened by development are among the oldest homes in the historic district. The Milwaukee arrived in 1909, and these simple brick homes built in the Colonial Revival style of architecture were constructed for railroad workers. These six buildings are all contributing resources to the historic district. We believe the loss of these historic homes will have a negative impact on the historic district.
We object to the project because it will remove affordable housing from our community. Affordable housing has risen to a critical concern. We seem to be intent on tearing down affordable housing while paying lip service to the idea of replacing or building new. Even with the addition of a condition to have 20% of the condo portion as affordable housing, $240,000 for a condo would not be affordable to any of the displaced tenants. We simply cannot continue to remove Missoulians from affordable housing.
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We have been in touch with neighbors who are rightfully alarmed about the traffic problems that will be created by a 40-unit condo, with zoning that allows commercial uses, on a one-way street.
The development does not conform to the newly established design guidelines and standards developed for the neighborhood. The University District Neighborhood Character Overlay District is intended to preserve and enhance the character of the university neighborhood by fostering rehabilitation, development and redevelopment that is compatible with the scale, orientation and setting of original buildings in the neighborhood.
The neighbors view this six-story development as an affront to the quality of life they enjoy, and we agree with them. By allowing a rezoning of the property, the guidelines no longer apply. If the rezoning of the property is approved, it will set a dangerous precedent for zoning overlays and the intent of preserving the neighborhood character.
We are aware that time does not stand still and development is inevitable. We suggest the developer go back to the drawing board, request a rezone to a residential zone allowing greater density than currently allowed, and return with a project compatible with the historic district.