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Missoula Redevelopment Agency looks to purchase parking spots in new Front Street housing project

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September 15, 2016View for printing

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency received preliminary approval to use tax increment financing to purchase 150 parking spaces in a garage planned as part of a larger project on East Front Street.

A subsequent request from MRA is expected to follow seeking approval for a $3.2 million revenue bond to help construct a portion of the new garage.

The structure is planned as part of a six-story student housing project with 488 beds, including two levels of parking. The project is planned by Farran Realty Partners.

"If downtown is going to grow, it's going to have to have more parking," said Chris Behan, assistant director of MRA. "One, to attract more offices downtown, and two, to expand retail."

Martin Kidston

Full Story: ... ng-project/


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Reader Comments:

Another way to look at it is to ask, "where is the greatest demand for Downtown parking today?" and "where is the greatest demand for Downtown parking likely to be in the future?" In this case, it seems to be an opportunistic solution to address the developers' bottom line, that is, the developers' project doesn't pencil out unless the public buys 150 spaces in the basement of the developer's building. Would the MRA's investment in public parking made more sense if it was in the proposed new library, a public building? We will never know because the question was never entertained, nor was there a parking study undertaken that would indicate where parking should be sited. It seems the question asked and answered was, "what can MRA do to make this project work for the developer?" Remember, this project was proposed years ago but don't recall there was any mention of there being 150 spaces of public parking beneath it. This is a rather recent development suggesting SOMETHING involving the infusion of public investment was necessary or the project wouldn't make sense and, hence, go forward.

I have nothing against public/private partnerships, and I realize they often emerge out of opportunity. In this case, I would have felt more confident of the City's decision if the public's interest in parking had been studied more thoroughly beforehand with a conclusion that indicated that the basement or sub-basement of a private building was the best place to make this investment in structured parking.

Finally, I must disclose that I do not have any particular knowledge about specific discussions between the City of Missoula Redevelopment Agency and the project developer. I worked for many years for MRA and I have a deep and abiding respect for the Board and Staff, but in this case, the optics leave a lot to be desired. It is even more the case since one of the project's principals is a member of the Missoula Parking Commission. It is possible that he has dutifully recused himself on the record on all MPC votes having to do with the inclusion of millions of dollars of public funds for public parking in his projects. I will acknowledge that I could be completely wrong about what has happened, and how, and if I am, I will gladly accept correction.

Many millennials, and younger, don't care about or need to own a car, yet we are still planning our communities and future as if they do. 15 year-olds in cities no longer dream of getting their driver's license. They dream of getting their first Uber card. The beginning of autonomous cars is already here and their usage will grow exponentially which will have an impact on our lives that will be revolutionary. We soon won't own cars but will subscribe to an on-call service. Isn't promoting public transit a foundation of Missoula? "Carcatecture" (a term I've borrowed from Missoula's green expert, Steve Loken) will quickly evolve into much better usage of our land and public spaces. Building huge cement structures that will cost almost as much to remove as they do to build is not the way of the future. As Wayne Gretsky said: "You've got to go to where the puck will be." Wake up planners. Take a look at what other communities are doing. They're not building to accommodate more cars. They're building to embrace a world where the car is no longer dominant in our every day lives.

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