Costco still in running for airport property; county’s offer panned

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Missoula County’s offer to purchase a piece of development property near the airport expired last month, raising questions as to whether Costco Wholesale will emerge as the accepted buyer.

Commissioners last month approved spending $1.47 million in tax increment financing to purchase the vacant 18-acre lot in the Missoula Development Park.

However, with an asking price of $2.6 million, the county’s offer wasn’t accepted.

“They weren’t really excited about our offering price, and they let our offer expire,” said Dori Brownlow, the county’s director of development. “They have other offers that I’m aware of.”

Katie Ward, a real estate broker with PureWest Christies International Real Estate in Missoula, confirmed Monday that three other parties have made offers on the property, including Costco.

“I’ve had three other parties make offers that were substantially higher than the county’s,” Ward said. “We’re continuing to negotiate with those three parties.”

Costco had intended to build a new and larger store off Broadway just west of Reserve Street. The proposal, which included 24 gasoline pumps and a 154,000-square-foot commercial building, drew fire from nearby residents who feared the store would generate additional traffic through their neighborhood.

Costco ultimately withdrew its application, though it’s now looking at property in the development park, which is located near Missoula International Airport.

Ward, who was limited in what she could disclose, said she hopes to have the property under contract by the end of this week. While it’s unknown if Costco will emerge as the accepted buyer, Ward said the company had made an offer on the parcel.

“With a property like this, which requires substantial infrastructure and zoning considerations, we typically hope for a closing date within six months,” said Ward. “I do hope to have it under contract this week.”

The Missoula Development Park was formed in the 1990s and is nearly 80 percent occupied. The large parcel in question was initially sold by the county to a Canadian company that intended to build a hockey rink on the lot.

That project fell through after the firm spent roughly $1 million preparing the former gravel pit for development. It now sits on level ground between Expressway Boulevard and Interstate 90, just off Harrier Road.

Dave Rogers of Costco said the wholesaler has been looking for a new Missoula location for years. While he couldn’t be reached on Monday, he has said in the past that the company looks to “build a Costco with all the bells and whistles that Missoula deserves.”

Ward said the buyer will likely be known in a matter of weeks.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com