'Save the Merc' proponents brought in 'the big guns', so to speak on Wednesday, in their efforts to stave off the possible demolition of the iconic Missoula Mercantile Building.

The Missoula Elks Club, itself an historic treasure, played host to officials from the Montana Preservation Alliance, the State of Montana Historic Preservation Office and the National Trust For Historic Preservation.

Senior Field Officer for the National Trust, Jennifer Buddenborg, emphasized the fact that May is National Historic Preservation Month.

"We have been following what's been going on here in terms of the public concern over the proposal that's on the table for the demolition of the building," Buddenborg said.  "We're trying to generate some public interest and discussion about the preservation of historic places like the Merc in Missoula, and how they can be revitalized to continue to be a vital part of the community

"The way we're looking at this at the National Trust is that we want to make sure that the process for the demo goes through in the right way, and that alternatives to demolition are available, so that everything is on the table to consider what truly can be done there", she said.

MPA Executive Director Chere Jiusto, said other communities have been able to come together to save historic buildings like the Mercantile.

"First off, the Missoula mercantile is such an iconic building, and there are ways that other communities where incentives have been applied, there are historic preservation tax credits, new market tax credits, the city can play a role with special funding, and when you combine all those things into a package for a developer, it does pencil out."

The Missoula Historic Preservation Commission has until June 2 to either approve or deny a demolition permit for Bozeman based HomeBase Montana, so they can begin constructing a Residence Inn by Marriott on the current site of the Missoula Mercantile.

Missoula Mayor John Engen and the Missoula Chamber of Commerce are both on the record to demolish the building, saving as much history as possible, and move forward with new construction.

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