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If you happened to stroll by the Indy’s office at some point in the last few weeks you probably noticed a few changes taking place on the hippest block west of the Hip Strip. The gentrification of South Fourth Street West is in full swing as construction on the old H.O. Bell Building nears completion, sidewalks and streetscapes get a makeover, and new neighbors start moving in.

According to Bell Building architect Jeff Crouch, of Kibo Group Architecture in Missoula, renovation on the old Ford dealership warehouse, the former home of Clark Fork City Church, will be complete by Sept. 1. The newly remodeled concrete and glass structure now houses three commercial condominiums on the first level and three residential condos on the top floor. Couch says the upper-level condos, which are for sale at $350,000, offer “New York loft-style” living in the heart of Missoula.

Two of the commercial spaces, also around $350,000, have already been sold. The Clark Fork Coalition bought—and is currently moving into—the lower level unit facing South Fourth. The environmental nonprofit is subletting some of its space to fellow enviros at the Montana Water Trust, Defenders of Wildlife and the Mineral Policy Center. Kibo Group owns another commercial space and will move the company’s offices from North Higgins into the new space soon.

“It would be great to get another nonprofit green outfit in that third commercial space,” says Couch. “But at this point whoever wants it gets it.”

Up the street, at the corner of South Fourth Street and Higgins Avenue, the stylish but as-yet-unopened Fieldstone Market remains dark. Inside the shelves are stocked and the tables are set, but according to owner John Mills, the store’s future remains uncertain.

“It’s pretty close to [opening], but I can’t in good conscience open without having sufficient operating capital,” Mills recently told the Indy, noting that he’s about $100,000 short of what he needs to open for business.

Meanwhile, Le Petit Outre is working on plans to expand its wholesale baking operation to a new location on South Third Street while building out its retail operations at its current location at the corner of South Fourth and Myrtle streets. Nothing’s official, but according to retail manager Brock Gnose, that change could happen in the next year.

And this week the Indy gets fancy new sidewalks…although we won’t get to enjoy them for long. We’re growing out of our digs here at 115 S. Fourth St. W. and have purchased a new home in the 300 block of Orange Street. We’re planning to move in this winter. We’ll miss our Hip Strip neighbors, but then again, walking back to the old ’hood for coffee, pastry, craft beer, Indian food and gossip about the new kids on the block will be good exercise.

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