There’s been plenty of talk about the old, ivy-covered City Shops building on West Broadway, and last Friday, Le Petit Outre bakery and Rattlesnake Creek Vineyard put their money where everyone’s mouths have been: They offered $840,000 for the building and site.
“[Le Petit owner] Leif [Bjelland] and I both have been interested in the building for a long time,” says Andrew Sponseller, with Rattlesnake Creek Vineyards.
Currently, and controversially, St. Patrick Hospital and Safeway have dibs on the site as part of a land-swap that City Council approved last September (though the Northside/Westside Neighborhood Plan, which Council had previously approved, called for no big box stores). Since then, Council has approved extensions on the swap twice, from Dec. 22 to April 26, and then to July 1. In the meantime, St. Pat’s requested $1.5 million from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to help finance the construction of the site and demolition of the building. MRA board members will discuss the request on June 17 and may or may not put it to a vote.
Bjelland and Sponseller, in concert with a yet-to-be-announced third party, hope to renovate the building, which, says Bjelland, is architecturally and structurally sound. Sponseller craves a tasting room for his new wines, like the Red Gate Rosé and Flathead Cherry Dry. Bjelland would be delighted to expand his retail business to sell artisan cheeses and hand-rolled pasta, and actually set up tables and chairs for customers.
Ward 1’s Heidi Kendall, who expressed frustration when Council granted the most recent extension, sees myriad benefits to the offer.
“I think it’s wonderful to have a local proposal,” she says. “It keeps local money local, sells a local product and preserves a building eligible for the historic registry.”
Bjelland, peering over two artist renditions of a thriving City Shops building, says he has read the neighborhood plan, and along with the “no box stores” directive, he found a line that recommends the sort of business neighbors might welcome. “They actually said ‘bakery’ in there,” he says, with some bemusement.