Downtown inventory identifies properties, other assets important to investors and entrepreneurs

One of the most ambitious projects to ever happen in downtown Missoula is a building-by-building inventory to help us understand our baseline assets, business mix, retail sales and more. Under the leadership and guidance of Jessica Daniels, program director at the Missoula Downtown Association since 2010, this yearlong data collection and analysis came to a close at the end of 2011.

Last month we distributed the 100-page “Missoula Downtown Inventory” to a dozen industry-specific professionals for review and input. Real estate professionals John Crowley, Jed Dennison and Kim Kaufman; economic development specialists David Glaser, James Grunke and Brigitta Freer; and downtown retail professionals Todd Frank and Scott Sproull provided valuable perspectives on what data was most valuable, what statistics were surprising, what information should be available to the general public and what data should be targeted toward potential investors.

screenshot of online downtown property inventory map

“The data was very useful for leasing up my space in an efficient manner,” said Kim Kaufman, commercial Realtor with Prudential Montana Real Estate. “It can be difficult to get property priced right, and the inventory work reflects competitive lease rates.”

The “Missoula Downtown Inventory” will be an important tool in taking the downtown economy to the next level. When potential investors are shopping for a location, they will now have access to information that will inform them on what downtown Missoula has to offer and will hopefully entice those investors to choose the heart of Missoula for their next business venture.

This inventory was one of the recommendations of the Missoula Downtown Master Plan’s strategies for employment and retail development. In order to sell downtown, we need to know what we have, what we want and what we need. The information collected now provides a scientific and data-based analysis of what’s going on with the downtown economy.

Some interesting information coming out of the inventory:

  • Average lease rates: $12 to $18 per square foot for commercial spaces.
  • Annual sales per square foot: Consumer services pull in an impressive $368 per square foot, followed by restaurants at $244 per square foot.
  • Business mix: Approximately 39 full-service restaurants, 10 coffee shops and 129 retail establishments.
  • Hours of operation: Most downtown retailers and restaurants are open on Sundays.

The majority of the data collection was handled by two exceptional project interns. Martin Knight is a University of Montana graduate student in geography and is now employed at homeWORD. Brandy Sularz is a former transportation planner/engineer who is now a project manager at Envirocon. These individuals, along with Daniels, played a vital role in seeing this project to completion and giving downtown Missoula a competitive edge in the arena of economic development. The information will be fed to the Missoula Economic Partnership in its efforts to acquire 2,500 new jobs in this market.

Downtown Missoula has a lot of opportunities for businesses of all sizes. We have first-floor retail spaces renting on average for $12.72 per square foot, and upper-floor office spaces in a range of sizes and with a variety of amenities. We have major development opportunities on East Spruce Street and in the Sawmill District and the Riverfront Triangle, which could significantly increase the retail and commercial opportunities downtown.

We have a lot to offer folks considering downtown Missoula as their next place to grow a business. We have worked hard to develop a long-term plan, to improve the safety and cleanliness of the area, to build additional parking, to provide benefits, services and amenities for downtown businesses and their employees; and to put our best foot forward in the arena of business recruitment and retention. The “Missoula Downtown Inventory” will help us accomplish more goals as they relate to developing a strong retail market, attracting businesses that provide jobs and commerce in downtown, and creating momentum in leveraging our resources to acquire investment in downtown.

One of the frontline tools we have today to help attract interest is a page on the MDA website that lists downtown properties available for sale or for lease. This helps us connect vacant spaces to those interested in relocating or opening a business downtown.

You can find the “Downtown Inventory Summary” at www

Better yet, make an appointment to visit with Daniels to find out why you should invest in downtown Missoula.

Downtown Missoula is open for business!

This column also appeared in the Western Montana InBusiness Weekly on Sunday, February, 12, 2014: Inventory offers baseline.

Linda McCarthy is Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association. The MDA is a not-for-profit business association dedicated to promoting, supporting and enhancing the vitality of Downtown Missoula.  More information on MDA and the project is available by calling the our office at 406.543.4238 or on the MDA website at

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