At KGVO’s request, Missoula Redevelopment Agency Business Manager Jil Dunn was the featured guest on the KGVO ‘City Talk’ segment of Talk Back on Friday.

Dunn appeared with City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam to answer questions from the public on the role of the MRA in community development.

Dunn began by stating that the agency is embarking on an effort to better communicate the purpose and inner workings of the agency, and asked the public to become better educated on the MRA.

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“We are embarking on a communication campaign to help educate Missoulians and our surrounding residents about how it works,” said Dunn. “Then hopefully they can understand it better, and then when they're educated about it and see what kind of things we can do with tax increment then everybody can have their own opinion and have their judgments, but I think it's important to educate yourself before you have those opinions.”

One caller asked about the Southgate Mall area road improvements that were completed not long before the mall was sold, and questioned the timing of the project that they thought benefited the sellers.

“As far as the Southgate Mall project goes, that area was added into the Urban Renewal District Three at a time when across the country, malls were going vacant and dark,” she said. “For example, Helena. Helena’s mall in the middle of town went dark and they eventually ended up tearing it down, and we really didn't want to have that area decline as consumer spending moved more towards online.”

Dunn tapped that nail again, saying the improvements were not done to benefit the mall owners, but were important traffic safety projects.

“The money that has gone into the improvements at the Southgate Mall didn't go to the Southgate Mall owners,” she said. “The money that was used for the improvements were for those public streets. For example, Mary Avenue. I just drove on it on my way here this morning. So the roundabouts, the curbs, the gutters, the sidewalks, the streets, the pedestrian crossings, and the crossing over the railroad tracks. That's what tax increment financing funded in that area.”

Dunn referenced a graphic that describes Tax Increment Financing and the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and said they are available online or in person at the MRA Office at 140 West Pine, downtown.

Click here to listen to the entire City Talk conversation with Jill Dunn from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency.

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