Missoula City and County governments are looking at the opportunity of utilizing the old federal building on East Broadway to consolidate many of their offices and services.

Missoula County Chief Administrative Officer Chris Lounsbury spoke with KGVO this week about the opportunity.

“The County Commissioners are considering an open a public comment period for the county potentially joining with the city to acquire the federal building for use for city and county offices,” said Lounsbury. “We're really excited about that, because as you know, and probably most of your audience knows, we have about seven buildings scattered across downtown where currently folks have to go to try and find services. The hope is that we'll be able to consolidate those and make it easier for folks to find where they're going and access the services they need.”

Lounsbury said the building itself will be free, however, extensive renovation will be necessary in the old building.

“The federal government actually is getting rid of the building under surplus so there's no cost for the building itself,” he said. “The cost for the county and the city will come in remodeling that space to be used for city and county office functions. As you can imagine, that building has seen a lot of different uses over the years from being the first federal courthouse to then being home for different government offices and then the Forest Service, and so it will need some what I'm going to call tender loving care and some updating to make it actually usable for local government offices.”

Lounsbury laid out the possible remodeling estimate for the structure.

“What we have right now are what I'll call rough architectural numbers,” he said. “We don't have detailed numbers yet, because we haven't started that process until we know for sure that the Commission and the City Council want to acquire the building. Those numbers put the cost for each local government at a little under $20 million, which is a really big number. But in order to construct a separate space for the county that would have all those functions, the number is closer to 30 to $35 million. Either way it's a big number, but it's more affordable when we look at it as a partnership with the city.”

As to where that money would come from, Lounsbury had this to say.

“Right now we're looking at putting together a financing package that would go with this project,” he said. “We've had really good success in the past on some of our remodel projects looking to partner with both the city but also the federal government on things like ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access and those kinds of things. Our hope is that we'll be able to use some federal funding through grants and other means. We'll use some local funding, but because we're consolidating those offices, freeing up some redevelopment opportunities in the downtown core, where the county and city have buildings. So the hope is that those funds will come together to fund the majority of the project.”

Lounsbury said if all goes according to plan, and the city and county decide to take on the project, that the remodeling might be completed by September of 2024.


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