By Martin Kidston
The Missoula Redevelopment Agency is asking a well-known developer with a strong history in Missoula to provide assurances that a new project planned for the Lucky Strike property off Russell Street will result as presented.
The Woodbury Corporation, which most recently replaced the old K-mart building on Brooks Street with the new South Crossing development, is looking to raze the Lucky Strike Casino and Five Valleys Bowling Center and replace it with a state-of-the-art Les Schwab tire center and one or two new restaurants.
Woodbury is asking for roughly $664,000 in tax increment financing to complete the project. The cost includes roughly $235,000 in demolition work, $101,000 in asbestos abatement, $75,000 in utility work and $253,000 in right-of-way improvements.
Roughly $411,000 would be dedicated to phase one of the project.
While Woodbury now owns the property, it’s looking to sell a portion of it to Les Schwab once demolition work is completed. Les Schwab has proposed building a new eight-bay tire center along Russell Street value at roughly $2.5 million.
MRA’s board of directors was pleased with the proposal, though it sought guarantees from Woodbury that Les Schwab would build the same building that was presented to the board. The board declined to provide the project TIF funding without such guarantees.
“In dealing on behalf of the city, we need some assurances that the Les Schwab building is built to the standards as shown,” said Karl Englund, chairman of the MRA board. “We need to have some binding assurance that that’s going to happen.”
Without the funding, however, Woodbury cannot begin demolition work. Company representative Craig Erickson said that without completing demolition, it will be hard to market the remainder of the property to restaurateurs.
He said several companies are interested in the property, most recently Texas Road House. While that deal has likely fallen through, the list of other candidates is promising, including Kneaders, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Wild Ginger and Corner Bakery, among others.
“Woodbury has a significant investment already having just bought the site,” Erickson said. “In order to go forward with sale to Les Schwab, we’ve got to demo the site.”
The board expressed other concerns as well, including the outright demolition of the old bowling alley and adjacent car wash over deconstruction. But the bowling alley has already been stripped of value, leaving a concrete block structure that holds little deconstruction value.
Going the demolition route would save roughly $75,000 over the cost of deconstruction, MRA staff said. The board was willing to let demolition take place given the property’s lack of material value.
Erickson said Woodbury has earned a solid reputation in Missoula for the work it completed at South Crossing on Brooks Street. The company has already agreed to invest additional funding in the new Les Schwab building to help improve the facade facing Russell Street.
The building would include a glass showroom and other modern amenities. Les Schwab would then vacate its current facility on Brooks and place the property on the market.
“We’re comfortable in paying for those upgrades in the Les Schwab improvements, and we’re comfortable they’ll meet those expectations, because that’s what we made very clear to them as a function of going through the MRA process,” Erickson said.
MRA staff and Woodbury agreed to return later this month after working out the assurances sought by the board. The board will consider the TIF request at that time.
“I’m hoping we have some credibility for what we built at South Crossing,” Erickson added. “We have every intention of meeting the integrity of doing nice projects in Missoula. We’re looking at a couple other projects here as well.”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at firstname.lastname@example.org