MISSOULA – Mayor John Engen sees the opening of the new Marriott Hotel in Downtown Missoula as not only the completion of a successful project but an indication of things to come.
When HomeBase Partners announced plans to replace the historic Missoula Mercantile with a new hotel three years ago this month, Mayor Engen was there to immediately endorse the idea.
In fact, he was the first city official to say that while there was a lot of history and memories tied to the Mere, it was time for the city to embrace a new future.
Last week, as community leaders gathered for the “soft opening” of the new Residence Inn by Marriott, Engen praised developer Andy Holloran and his team for completing a project that embraced the future but incorporated repurposed building materials and artifacts as a tie to the historic past of the Mercantile and downtown.
“Downtown’s renaissance is a long one right? And the beauty of the resilience of downtown is Macy’s closed, but downtown didn’t. Downtown continued to be a place that was important,” Mayor Engen said.
He feels the completion of the Residence Inn shows how the city, business community and residents can collaborate on future developments, weaving together the past and the future, keeping the economic vibrancy of downtown.
“What the Marriott does is blends into this important place and is part of the fabric. But we don’t dangle by one thread anymore here in Downtown Missoula,” Mayor Engen said. “And that’s a beautiful thing. And that’s testament to a lot of hard work by a lot of people over time.”
There’s more to come as HomeBase Partners is ready to start construction on a second project, the AC Hotel, right next door. New restaurants and other shops will be opening soon on the ground floor of the Residence Inn.
And city staff are still working with developers on the Riverfront Triangle project, which promises to provide a similar economic anchor at the west end of the downtown.
“Well, if you look at Front Street today, versus Front Street ten years ago, dramatically transformed,” Mayor Engen said.
“We’re going to see these surface parking lots that are really a waste of real estate not only park cars but house people, and commerce, and offices. And there’s more to come.”
Mayor Engen believes the completion of the Residence Inn shows other interested developers and investors Missoula is willing to work with them to overcome potential obstacles to make their plans a reality.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News