Brooks Street, Missoula MT

Location: Missoula, Montana
Project Name: Midtown in Focus: Innovative Land Use Planning in a Transit Corridor
Completed Date: November 2016
Partners: Missoula Development Services, City of Missoula

Challenge:

Brooks Street is the primary transportation and commercial corridor through MidTown Missoula. Doubling as State-Highway 93, it is an auto-oriented corridor that serves as an important connector from the Bitterroot Valley to Missoula’s downtown core. The corridor is home to many retail and office uses, serving adjacent neighborhoods and the rest of the city. Significant new development projects are underway in the area: The SouthGate mall, a key community anchor, is being redeveloped to align with shifting retail trends. On top of that, the Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD) is aligning its existing Bus Route 7 directly onto Brooks Street, creating opportunities for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).

With fast and reliable transit service coming to Brooks Street, the project team, known as MidTown Partners, sought new opportunities for housing and commercial development in MidTown, as well as opportunities to create new activity nodes and strengthen pedestrian connections across Brooks and between adjacent neighborhoods. To accomplish this, MidTown Partners sought assistance from Community Builders to understand the land use planning context of the area and explore tools to help the market capitalize off the transit enhancements.

Key Activities: The Community Builders team led a three-day site visit and community engagement charrette in September of 2016. Prior to the on-site community meeting, Community Builders worked with a multi-agency working group including members from Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA), City of Missoula, Mountain Line, and the Missoula County Metropolitan Planning Organization. To provide technical assistance, Community Builders contracted Progressive Urban Management Associates (P.U.M.A.), a land use planning and economic firm based in Denver, Colorado.

Market Analysis: P.U.M.A. prepared a detailed market analysis examining the economic characteristics of the study area, which largely aligned with existing Urban Renewal District III. The analysis revealed opportunities for new development in the areas of housing and retail.

Community Experience Questionnaire: Community members responded to an online questionnaire which gathered their opinions on the challenges and character of the corridor. Respondents also gave preferences on the types of building forms, design, and parking configuration.

Site Tour: The CB team and members of the MidTown Working group conducted a tour of the site via bus and walking to observe existing conditions, understand challenges from a user perspective, and get a sense of the character of Brooks Street.

Stakeholder Sessions: P.U.M.A and the CB team interviewed local developers, land and business owners, and other key stakeholders to understand their challenges and to reveal opportunities for the corridor.

Public Open Houses: Public open houses were held on the 2nd evening and 3rd day of the site visit. At the first open house, community members participated in a visual preference polling session where they provided input on character images they liked or disliked in relation to Brooks Street.

A pubic open house/charrette on the second day and evening gave community members a chance to provide feedback on their vision for the corridor.

Outcomes:

The Midtown Missoula association has a clear understanding of the next steps to take in making Brooks Street a thriving corridor. The community engagement process established common goals and a vision for the Brooks Street Corridor, and a market assessment identified opportunities for needed housing and retail uses. The final report provided recommendations for design strategies and infrastructure improvements as well as steps needed to make the corridor walkable, connected, and ready for re-investment.

Key Recommendations:

  • Improve pedestrian crossings to improve mobility across Brooks.
    • Use high visibility pavement markings and pedestrian lighting
    • Use improvements made at Dore Lane as part of the South Crossing redevelopment as model.
    • Crossings that comply with Americans With Disabilities Act
  • Vacate short streets along Brooks.
    • The angle at which Brooks Street intersects the Missoula grid causes many small, unusable lots and a broken, unpredictable street frontage along Brooks. Recommendations include:
    • Vacate streets to reduce curb cuts, create larger blocks for easier development, and create space for public infrastructure such as bike storage, bus shelters, or landscaping.
    • Reconfigure remaining streets to meet Brooks at a 90 degree angle, creating a safer pedestrian and bicyclist experience.
  • Complete missing bicycle connections and adding to bike infrastructure.
  • Transit and street-scape improvements along Brooks Street.
    • Creating a linear transfer center and getting the existing Route 7 in line with Brooks Street will support the Mountain Line goal of seven minute headways and increased transit service along Brooks. The proposed route change will support the goal of turning Brooks Street into a transit oriented corridor and will support additional development along the corridor.
  • Breakup mega-blocks, especially the Southgate Mall.
  • Work with Developers to shape Four key development Opportunities:
    • Southgate Mall
    • The McDonald Ave/Schilling St. intersection
    • The former Staples and Hastings stores
    • Holiday Village
  • Regulatory Changes to promote density and improve streetscape along Brooks
    • Allow for greater building heights adjacent to corridor
    • Require greater setbacks along corridor north of Paxton, and encourage street facing landscaping.
  • Create shared parking strategy for area southeast of Brooks where employers and residential uses abut.

Download the final report here. 

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