Downtown Missoula Marriott on pace for December opening, restaurants included

The Residence Inn by Marriott, or Mercantile hotel, rises in downtown Missoula and remains in target or a December opening. It will include 24,000 square feet of retail space, including four new restaurants, the developer said Wednesday. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Nearly a year after breaking ground in downtown Missoula, the Residence Inn by Marriott remains on pace to open this December, the developer said Wednesday evening.

And when it does, the property’s 24,000 square feet of retail space will include a handful of new restaurants offering Thai, Mexican and seafood, while a block-long interior alleyway will blend items from the property’s past with contemporary art arranged by the Radius Gallery.

“The interest and excitement for that (retail space) has been tremendous,” said developer Andy Holloran. “We’re fully confident we’ll be open by the end of this year and that (retail space) will be fully occupied at the same time.”

Holloran, who first unveiled the project in early 2016, detailed the progress in a meeting with members of the Downtown Business Improvement District. The $40 million hotel is one of several sizable projects planned or unfolding in the downtown district, representing several hundred million dollars in new investment.

While the Roam student housing project nears completion on Front Street, along with the Conflux Brewpub on Main Street, a new Missoula Public Library is set to break ground nearby, as well as a hotel and conference center on the Riverfront Triangle.

“I think it’s so exciting to see this reinvestment,” Holloran said. “It shows dedication to downtown Missoula.”

Members of the BID, along with Mayor John Engen, credited much of that growth to the city’s Downtown Master Plan. Implemented in 2009, the plan detailed a vision for the downtown district and was, at the time, seen as overly ambitious.

But Tim France, the owner of Wordens Market and chair of the BID board of directors, said much of the plan’s vision has been achieved. Work on an updated plan will begin this year, focusing on housing, parking, technology and the Caras Park corridor.

“When the original plan came out, some of that stuff seemed like it was pie in the sky, but now a lot of it has come to reality,” France said. “Approximately 70 percent of the recommended actions in the plan have already been completed or are underway, which is remarkable.”

Andy Holloran, developer of the Mercantile hotel, said Missoula’s planning efforts and size make it an ideal place to invest. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current))

Holloran, who has completed developments in several Montana cities, including Bozeman, said Missoula stands above the rest with its amenities, walkability and planning, include smart growth.

He also praised the city’s efforts to develop design standards and guidelines, calling them important changes that will guide future investment and quality development.

“We all need to be a part of that, creating a set of design documents and guidelines that are fair, but also predictable,” Holloran said. “The biggest risk for folks like us, who are developers, is the unknown. It’s very hard to invest in a community where you can’t rely on a set of guidelines. It’s a huge thing for us as a community.”

Over the past two years, the Mercantile project underwent a number of iterations before landing on its final design. The five-story hotel incorporated a portion of the historic pharmacy building and will include a number of historic elements salvaged from the property’s past.

Holloran said he chose the Marriott brand in part because of its flexibility, allowing the project to add a local touch to the finish product.

“One of the things we really like about the Marriott corporation is their willingness to embrace the local community,” Holloran said. “It’s an excellent time to be investing for the long term in Missoula.”

Holloran, who also purchased the former Firestone property on Main Street, said it could see any number of future projects, from housing to office.

“Frankly we’re open to ideas,” he said. “I know there’s a variety of companies downtown working from a variety of locations.”