Parks and Recreation and Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA) are working together to develop of Montana Rail Link (MRL) Park, the City’s newest neighborhood park being constructed in the Franklin to the Fort neighborhood.
The new 4-acre park site is located between North and South Avenue, Johnson Street, and the Bitterroot Rail line.
Parks and Recreation collaborated with neighborhood residents, MRA and MRL to develop a master plan for the park through an extensive public process. Residents who participated in the master planning process emphasized a desire for lots of open green space, a playground, a community garden, a dog park, a multi-use playing court, and a small pavilion.
A design team led by DHM Design Landscape Architects was hired to develop the master plan into a detailed park plan and to create construction documents. The design team loosely organized the site design to reflect a rail yard, incorporating rail artifacts donated by MRL. The round playground with its locomotive play structures and radiating walks might be seen as the rail yard roundhouse, and the linear rows of the community garden might be seen as a series of rail tracks that terminate at bumper stops defining an entry plaza. A signal tower cantilevered over the recently completed Bitterroot Trail serves as a sculptural entry feature. Master Plan
Park construction began in May 2018, and the grand opening of the park is slated for Spring 2019. Dick Anderson Construction is managing construction.
In 2018, the City acquired a 12-acre parcel at Johnson and South through a partnership with Montana Rail Link for $2 million, a price substantially below market value. The purchase was funded by 1995 Open Space Bond funds for the park and urban renewal district funding through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency for the remainder of the parcel.
The sale and donation by Montana Rail Link of the 12 acres will allow the City to fill in the last missing link in the Bitterroot Trail between downtown Missoula and Hamilton, and build a park at the junction of two neighborhoods that have a shortage of open space and parks. In addition, the railroad has agreed to support a bicycle-pedestrian railroad crossing at Central Avenue, adjacent to the new park, supporting citizen goals for active transportation, connectivity, access and parkland service.
Development of MRA Park is funded primarily by Tax Increment Financing (TIF) through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. Projects financed with TIF funds do not affect property taxes and are not paid for by the City's general fund. TIF is a redevelopment tool that allows cities, through the creation of special districts (urban renewal districts), to make public improvements within those districts that improve the quality of life and generate private-sector investment.
At the creation of an urban renewal district, the tax base is “frozen” at the pre-district level. Property taxes continue to be paid at the base level, but taxes derived from increases in assessed values in that district (the tax increment) resulting from new development are reinvested in the district to leverage future growth. For more information about TIF, please contact Annette Marchesseault, MRA Project Manager/Redevelopment Specialist, 406-552-6158.
Parks construction will also be partially funded by City impact fees and a wood-waste reclamation grant from the Montana DNRC.
For more information on the park and trail projects, please contact Neil Miner, Parks and Trails Design /Development Manager, 552-6264. Please see Related Documents below.