Details Regarding The Future Use Of A Federal Building In Downtown Missoula Remain Murky

by William Skink

A brief article at NBC Montana regarding what to do with a Federal building downtown caught my eye. You can probably guess, from the title of the article, why: Missoula federal building possible homeless resource after space declared surplus.

Apparently declaring this building surplus space was a big step in figuring out a future use for a building that is over 80% vacant and costs half a million annually to keep open.

The agency that declared this space surplus is the General Service Administration (GSA), and apparently it’s the GSA that is looking for a homeless organization to possibly use the space. From the link:

GSA officials say the building is 84.1% empty. The Forest Service moved out of the space back in 2015. Plus they say it costs around $500,000 in taxpayer money to keep the building running each year.

That’s part of the reason the city and county hope to acquire the space, but both know there are hurdles in the way of making that happen. The GSA says it first considers using the space to help the homeless.

“If a homeless organization comes in and shows interest that they will have a priority to submit a plan and application for the building,” said Missoula County strategic initiatives manager Casey Gannon. He says that’s why they’re holding off on spending any more money.


Since I didn’t know much about the GSA, I did a little digging to better understand their role. Here’s an idea of what they claim their mission and strategic goals are:

Our Mission

“Deliver value and savings in real estate, acquisition, technology, and other mission-support services across government.”

Vision: Effective and efficient government for the American people.

Values: Service, Accountability, and Innovation

Strategic Goals

Save taxpayer money through better management of federal real estate. We will deliver cost savings and value for taxpayers through smart asset management while also providing cutting-edge workplace solutions that help agencies fulfill their important missions.

Despite these lofty claims, the apparent reality is this building (which costs half a million to operate) has been 84% empty for five years waiting to be declared surplus, and now that this has occurred, the GSA will continue to sit on this building hoping some homeless organization will show interest?

Am I missing something here?

Missoula County is already shelling out money for this building. From the first link:

The city and county already contributed $100,000 each for surveying the building and seeing if it meets their needs. It will also tell them how much more they’ll need to spend in renovations.

If all goes as planned, GSA will hand over the title to the historic building in the heart of Missoula by September 2022.

It’s a move proponents say will save taxpayer dollars and make the building a one-stop shop for city and county needs.

I added the emphasis because this is where the story is. With such a broad, general statement, the obvious question is this: what does a “one-stop shop for city and county needs” actually mean?

As our elected braintrust dribble out details on the future use of this federal building, check back here for local context you won’t get anywhere else.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Details Regarding The Future Use Of A Federal Building In Downtown Missoula Remain Murky

  1. TC says:

    Doing the quick math…..County/City are already into this building for $200K (for what else – a study!). I have seen costs ranging up to $25 million to retro-fit for County/City use (can always expect that number to inflate) and then they will need $500k annually just to keep the lights on.
    No less than former Commissioner Jean Curtiss has called this a giant money pit. Doubt that will stop the Local Governments though – as you’ve pointed out they spend as it there are mo limits/looming crash.
    Perhaps they can get the MRA’s new PR firm(s) to educate us all why this benefits the taxpayer (of course that will probably run another $200k!)

  2. One of the unspoken reasons that the Pov moved out of its old downtown location 5 years ago was because of the huge transient problem downtown, and businesses complaining about it.

    Now the feds are forcing us to open another homeless shelter downtown.

    Follow the money.

  3. thank you for the comments.

    I don’t think it’s as simple as “the feds forcing us to open another homeless shelter”. remember, I worked at the Pov before and after the transition to West Broadway, and my program literally responded to downtown businesses when they called our HOT line instead of 911, so I know the kinds of problems the existed and persist despite the Pov getting pushed out of the downtown core.

    the idea of a “one stop shop” isn’t a terrible idea. I would get calls sometimes at Missoula Aging Services from people who had relocated here from Oregon and Washington. they would ask where the facility that had all the services was. one person described a place that had Medicaid programs, Social Security, other disability services, Veteran services, all under the same roof. I would have to say to these callers–gee, that sounds nice, but you’re in Montana now, and it doesn’t work that way here.

    I don’t know what is up with this federal building, maybe the “wet shelter” they’ve been talking about for a decade.

Leave a Reply