By LINDA MCCARTHY
You can tell the economy has improved by the number of construction projects happening in the Garden City. The Old Sawmill District – the former Champion Mill site on the south side of the Clark Fork River between Russell and Orange streets – is a great example of progress in Missoula.
The mill burned down in the late 1980s, and this 45-acre redevelopment site in the middle of our city has been cleaned up and is reshaping into what will be a fabulous urban core neighborhood. With significant contributions from a variety of entities, this valuable riverfront site has gone through a major cleanup process over the course of the last 10 year. However, this summer’s redevelopment work has been transformative.
Missoulians now have another east-west route through the Sawmill District, as the Missoula Redevelopment Agency has completed all the public improvements: a new Wyoming Street from Russell to Orange, a new railroad trestle, new curbs, sidewalks and more. One of the most appealing aspects is the pedestrian-scale light poles with banner brackets that carry the design of the 2010 North Higgins improvements to the Sawmill District. Additionally, the new tree grates, designed right here in Missoula, help brand this soon-to-be residential and commercial neighborhood.
The completion of the riverfront trail system, the Clark Fork River boat ramp, the new timber-frame pavilion being build right now, and the development of Silver Park give this former dumping ground new life. Future development of residential and commercial buildings will increase urban core opportunities and tax base for the City of Missoula.
If you haven’t travelled this corridor yet, I encourage you to walk, bike or drive through the Sawmill District so you can experience this up-and-coming development project. Kudos to people like Mayor John Engen, Ellen Buchanan, Chris Behan and the staff at the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Sawmill District owners Ed Wetherbee and Kevin Mytty, businesses such as Quality Construction and Brugh Landscaping, as well as many others who contributed time and money to clean up the site over the course of the last 15 years. This part of our community has been transformed!
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Linda McCarthy has been a Missoula resident for more than 25 years and serves as Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association, a private non-profit, membership-based organization dedicated to promoting, supporting and enhancing the vitality of Downtown Missoula. She and her family live in the Farviews Neighborhood, and her husband, Tom Gallagher, is a computer science professor at UM’s Missoula College. Linda holds two degrees from The University of Montana and was the 2008 Montana Alumni of the Year.