Scott Street development plans take shape, but construction schedule slows


MISSOULA – The cost of building materials combined with zoning changes could take another two years for an affordable housing project planned for Scott Street to be ready to be built.

However, the nine-acre project led by Ravara LLC is taking shape and the development team has unveiled a draft of the neighborhood design. It includes a mix of condos and townhouses, market-priced apartments, a central plaza and a small shopping center.

“The design is based on the principles we heard from the community,” said Bryan Topp, project architect at Cushing Terrell. “The main takeaway is that we are trying to maximize density while maintaining open space. “

The city bought 19 acres off Scott Street in 2020 for around $ 6.3 million, and it approved a deal with Ravara in 2021 to develop 9 acres into a mixed-use housing project with an affordability element. .

The city plans to expand Charlo and Palmer Streets to the west and connect them to Shakespeare Street. Three acres set aside for a community land trust will be north of Charlo, while six acres designated for market housing and retail will be found to the south.

“With the denser building footprints, we are able to keep some of that space open. This allows us to have permeability through the site, ”Topp said. “On top of that, we really wanted this development to feel open to the surrounding community. “

The land trust will include 42 townhouses and 36 condos, while the architecture resembles past uses. The planned shopping center next to Scott Street is similar in design to the former White Pine Sash factory that occupied the site.

“The condos that we try to make as affordable and user-friendly as possible, which means our studios and smaller units will be there, while the townhouses will be more of the two, three and four bedroom type,” Team member Dawn McGee said. “We were commissioned by the city to build 70 units on three acres. It’s hard to do it in a way that is successful while still having a feeling of space. “

The developers behind the Scott Street project unveiled their master plan this week, which includes condos and townhouses to the north, and retail, a central plaza and apartments with underground parking to the south. Scott Street runs along the right side of the image.

Balancing the price targets set by the city under current market conditions and cots has also been a challenge, and this could remain a factor moving forward, the team said.

The city demanded land trust ready units delivered at 120% of the region’s median income to keep them affordable for future buyers.

“The cost of construction has skyrocketed dramatically, both in the cost of materials and contractors,” said team member Kiah Hochstetler. “To deliver them to the market we are in, we are pushing the cost limits by 120% AMI. “

Other factors could slow down the project schedule, including the drawing and clearance process. Considering the city’s parking requirements, the team is trying to place underground parking in certain places to preserve the open space.

But that could become prohibitive as the conception progresses. Working on the details will take longer, said team member Rob Brewster.

“Going through the drawing process and getting the permits takes a long time, probably around a year,” he said. “Partly because we have a zoning change that the site needs due to parking requirements. The way we have the zoning and the codes, it would be an ocean of parking and we would have very little green space. We are trying to answer this with underground parking, but it may not be economically feasible. “

The city has yet to dedicate a right of way along Palmer, Charlo and Shakespeare streets, which is likely the next step. Zoning changes would follow to accommodate development plans. In total, it could take 24 months to complete the process and begin construction, the team suggested.

Despite the cost elements, developers are trying to take an energy efficient approach in the design.

“The city has asked us to look at all options to be as energy efficient as possible,” said McGee. “We would like the project to get net-zero, but I don’t think we’ll get there given the cost of construction. We want to put it in place to be successful in the future, so if people want to add solar systems or better systems, they can do that, and we’ll operate the most energy efficient buildings possible.

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