Bozeman development company HomeBase Montana unveiled plans to demolish the historic Missoula Mercantile Building, and, in its place, build a multi-story Marriott hotel

At a press conference on Friday at the 1st Interstate Bank building that overlooks the vacant historic landmark, Mayor John Engen recounted stories from his youth that centered around experiences at The Missoula Mercantile, later the Bon, later Macy's,

"That corner is iconic, and the people that conducted their business there are all gone now, the building is empty, and their ghosts should be sad," Engen said. "This project brings commerce, life and people to a place that deserves all of that, and more."

Developer Andy Holloran explained the progression of circumstances that led to the difficult decision to ask to tear the building down and start from scratch.

Mayor Engen

"Our approach originally was to renovate the building, but as we continued with our due diligence, we determined that renovation was economically unfeasible given the deterioration of the building over the years," Holloran said. "So, we have evolved from a renovation, to a partial renovation, to saving the facade, to where we are today, which is a deconstruction of the existing building while attempting to salvage as much of the existing material as possible."

Holloran said the new hotel his company is proposing would be a welcome asset to the downtown area.

"Our proposal is anchored by a custom Residence Inn by Marriott," continued Hollloran. "The Marriott Corporation was kind enough to allow us to process and get approval for a custom. This is going to be Missoula's hotel. In addition to the ground floor, we felt it was important to bring back retail vibrancy on Higgins, so it's a 154 room Residence Inn by Marriott, along with approximately 24,000 square feet of ground floor retail restaurant space and the Mercantile Muse, which is the gathering spot for all of Missoula, which will connect Pattee to Higgins."

When asked if, with the rapid advance of new hotels in the Missoula area, there would be a market for the Residence Inn, Holloran said his research has shown that demand is growing in western Montana.

"When we look at Missoula, we almost see two sub-markets," he said. "We have the Reserve Street expansion, but we also have downtown. We see the traveler, the businessperson, the family that generally much prefer to be in the urban, walkable location, and we couldn't think of a better location than Front Street and Higgins."

The next meeting of the Historic Preservation Committee will be April 7, when further public comment on the project will be taken.