Russell Street corridor readies for major changes



Dallas Neil is excited. The former professional football player and longtime Missoula resident has big plans for a slice of the former Intermountain Lumber site on Russell Street—he envisions a two-story fitness center, complete with a bistro and espresso bar.

“It’s going to be something fresh for Missoula,” he says.

Neil owns LifeStyle Fitness on Reserve Street and he plans on moving it to the Russell Street location. He hasn’t yet bought his portion of the Russell site from its current owner, the Farran Group. But he aims to close on the parcel soon. “Everything is moving forward,” Neil says.


The new fitness center constitutes one of many new developments on tap for the long languishing property. Since the Intermountain Lumber Company shuttered in 2002, much of the site has remained a bare patch of concrete alongside one of Missoula’s most traveled thoroughfares. In 2010, the Missoula Housing Authority opened the 37-unit Garden District, a low income housing project, on the parcel’s southwestern corner. However, until this year, efforts to launch commercial development had fallen short.

That changed on Dec. 24, when Missoula developers the Farran Group purchased the land from the Missoula Housing Authority. In January, they broke ground on what will be a $19.5 million apartment complex, composed of seven buildings and 224 units, including studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Farran Group principal Jim McLeod sounds just as excited as Neil when talking about what’s happening on the 9.29-acre property. In addition to the apartments, which will rent for between $650 and $900 per month, the development will offer a large clubhouse, fitness center, pool and an on-site community garden that will be open to the public.

McLeod anticipates that the project, which is being financed by First Security Bank, will pump $5 million in local wages into the community. “It’s a project that’s being built in Missoula by Missoulians and being financed by Missoulians,” he says.

What’s more, McLeod points out that when the Russell Street redesign finally comes to fruition, locals who commute on foot or by bike will be able to skirt vehicle traffic almost entirely. The city's long-planned redesign calls for overhauling 1.5 miles of Russell, from West Broadway to Mount, adding bicycle lanes, new sidewalks and an underground tunnel that links the newly paved Milwaukee Trail to the west of Russell to Missoula’s expansive trail system on the east.

McCloud says that the Farran Group aims to begin opening apartments for rent this summer. “We hope to have our first two buildings ready to occupy [in] July, August, and our club house.”

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