ClassPass arrival in Missoula punctuates robust year of downtown growth

The arrival of a tech-based fitness company in Missoula will serve as a welcome boon to the downtown economy, with 40 or more employees occupying offices on the second floor of the Millennium Building. (OZ Architects)

The arrival of a tech-based fitness company in Missoula will serve as a welcome boon to the downtown economy, with 40 or more employees occupying offices on the second floor of the Millennium Building.

Tom Swenson, CEO of Bank of Montana, which owns portions of the building, said ClassPass is set to move in on Jan. 1. The company announced this week that it will open its third North American office in Missoula.

“The second floor is currently configured for 43 employees and it’s all furnished,” Swenson said Thursday. “We were approached by the Missoula Economic Partnership about its availability. We didn’t have it listed or advertised.”

ClassPass will join several other rapidly growing tech-based companies in downtown Missoula, including Advanced Technology Group, which hired its 100th local employee earlier this year.

That company is expected to stay downtown, though it may look to build a new office building to accommodate its rapid growth. The company’s senior vice president of strategy and corporate development has plans for several hundred employees, while ClassPass is expected to grow to 50 after it gets locally established.

“It’s exactly what we’re all working toward,” said Pam Udall, the business development director for the Downtown Missoula Partnership. “All the stakeholders in downtown Missoula are working toward this kind of growth.”

ClassPass’ announcement that it was locating downtown continued the district’s year of momentum – one that’s expected to continue deep into next year. A new student housing complex is set to open on Front Street next fall, bringing 400 students into the district.

Across the street from the Millennium Building, developers are midway through construction of a 177-room Marriott hotel. Once open, it too will bring new jobs to the district, along with retail and dining and a steady stream of patrons.

“We want growth that brings good-paying jobs downtown, more living opportunities and visitors to help out the stores,” said Udall. “When you have more people living and working downtown, it brings more dollars to the restaurants, retailers and businesses. It creates a super energetic and vibrant community, and it’s the type of growth we want.”

Development of the Riverfront Triangle is also expected to begin next year. Once fully developed, that project will see a new hotel and conference center, and a wealth of retail and residential offerings.

It will also include a number of Class A office projects, though the arrival of ClassPass belayed Swenson’s worries about finding a long-term tenant for his building.

“With all the Class A space coming online, I was concerned that finding tenants would be challenging,” Swenson said. “But the market is strong, and ClassPass had a particular need in order to move in in four days. We’ve got phone lines, computer lines, desks and chairs all ready to go.”

Swenson was also pleased the company chose downtown Missoula. The influx of 50 employees spells good news for the downtown economy and the city’s efforts to recruit good-paying jobs.

“It’s good for the real estate values, for all the restaurants and the service industries,” Swenson said. “It’s interesting to see the priority of a large firm be a downtown location, where Reserve Street might be more appealing for an international firm. With offices in New York and San Francisco, they like that urban setting.”