Wednesday, October 17

Developing Missoula's Brownfields

I thought I would follow-up the last (mostly negative) post with a look at an exciting revitalization project within a stone's throw of downtown Missoula. The Old Sawmill District is currently in the clean-up phase, and construction of a mixed commercial/residential district is slated for the beginning of next year. As far as I can tell, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, the WGM group, and others have done a great job with the site plan. They intend to incorporate vertical mixed-use in the commercial district, with businesses on the bottom and housing on top, and a combination of townhouses and single-unit residences a little further west. There will be a good amount of green space along the river, and it looks like the biking/walking trail system will even be extended.

A presentation given to the city council is available online in pdf format. (That's where I grabbed the picture from).

Projects such as these prove that there are alternatives to simply spreading outward onto greenspace. Even though the project is a bit of a financial gamble, it received unanimous and enthusiastic support from the Missoula city council. Hopefully, the rest of the public can see this as an undertaking worth supporting, and perhaps it could even serve as a model for future urban development.

Also, the Missoulian reported the other day that at least one developer has his eyes on another post-industrial plot of land over in Bonner, and he even tossed around the phrase "affordable housing." But some people want it turned over for more industrial usage. I wonder what will happen over there.

2 comments:

Jonathan said...

Daniel,
As much as I like a lot of the revivification of downtown/midtown areas of cities that's going on right now, one of the troubling issues for me is the commensurate widespread displacement of the poor to old suburbs. As I have casually strolled around Austin, my general assesement is that 90% of what is being built is luxury condominiums and townhouses. As beautiful as these dwellings are, it reveals a somewhat incoherent vision of what the texture of the community ought to be. The price of land and rent has been driven up so much by this speculation that the secondary businesses supporting the community (affordable grocery stores, laundromats, etc.) are driven out. Are there any strides being made in Missoula to provide affordable housing for low income families and individuals in these new developments in town?

Daniel Nairn said...

You asked the million-dollar question Jonathan. I agree that gentrification is a double-edged sword. A truly walkable community must be able to support all incomes, otherwise those who work the service jobs in the community must commute in from elsewhere. Sort of defeats the purpose.

I don't know exactly what is planned. One of the council members expressed this concern, and it appears that it is up to the developer to decide on price levels.

I'd like to learn more about how the mechanics of affordable housing work.