Master Plan takes shape 

Affordable housing, high-rise buildings and safer bike paths topped the list of concerns voiced by City Council members who attended the latest Downtown Master Plan presentation from Portland, Ore., consultants Crandall Arambula.

The council members joined more than 150 participants at the Holiday Inn Downtown on Sept. 3 to comment on the firm’s new draft plan, which highlighted changes recommended at their previous mid-May presentation. The new proposal integrates a more connected system of bike and pedestrian paths and identifies retail “anchor” sites, such as Macy’s, as vital to drawing more downtown consumers. While attendees complimented the updated vision, several issues remained.

“I can’t imagine City Council getting behind [the plan] without having housing lined up,” said Ward 1 Councilman Jason Wiener at the meeting, noting the plan’s lack of affordable housing.

Consultant George Crandall responded that affordable housing could be difficult to attract. He estimated a $40,000-$50,000 public subsidy would be needed for each unit of affordable housing.

“If the city wants it, they need to go find a funding source to get it,” Crandall said.

Clustered high-rises and their impact on Missoula’s view shed worried other attendees.

“It can take away the warmth that we experience in this community, and has a kind of coldness to it,” said Ward 5 Councilwoman Renee Mitchell. “I’m not totally opposed. I’d just like to see how they fit them in tastefully.”

Mitchell also voiced concerns about bicycle safety and a need for more protected bike lanes. She rides 39th Street to work and refuses to ride on the street.

How the plan fits into ongoing city transportation planning and the zoning rewrite process, and how well it finds funding sources are questions consultants will address in November during their final report.
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