Party with a purpose 

For its 10th anniversary celebration, HomeWORD, a local nonprofit focused on affordable, sustainable housing, decided to party in the belly of the beast.

“We wanted it to be different, so we picked a place where no one ever has events,” says Betsy Hands, HomeWORD’s program manager. That place is K-Mart.

Big-box stores, you see, sit on islands in asphalt lakes, isolating themselves and alienating anyone who tries to get around in anything but a car.

“It’s the ideal spot to highlight in regards to how we can make it a better place for those businesses and the bordering neighborhoods,” Hands says.

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency has recently turned its attentions to that site as well as the rest of Urban Renewal District 3 (URD-3), which encompasses the Brooks Street corridor from Mount Avenue to Reserve Street. The goal is to revitalize and rethink the setup of the area so that both businesses and people can better thrive. Ellen Buchanan, director of the MRA, says URD-3 is particularly challenging because of the wide variety of industrial, commercial and residential uses in the area, some that flourish and others that flounder.

For the 10th anniversary festivities—taking place Sunday, Sept. 25, from 4 to 7 p.m.—HomeWORD and the MRA are sponsoring a design competition to spark ideas and discussion about the immediate area around K-Mart. They’ve lured several local architects with the promise of a $1,000 prize for the winning concept, and all the designs will be on display for the public and a team of judges to check out and voice their opinions about. In coming months, the MRA will use the drawings as examples of what the area could look like in the future. Food, music and games like Housing Lingo Bingo—a Hands creation that substitutes housing terminology for numbers—will round out the afternoon.

“This is a way to create a community dialogue on how to look at this land,” Hands says. “And to get people thinking about the opportunities for these areas.”

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