Revitalizing Local Markets through Hospitality Design: Missoula, Montana

Revitalizing Local Markets through Hospitality Design: Missoula, Montana

JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE’s commitment to quality architecture and design goes beyond the creative vision. We work with our clients to address the practical needs with every project and strive to understand the long-term impact each has on the surrounding environment and community. Over the years, we’ve seen first-hand how hotel developments can serve as the perfect catalyst for revitalization. 

Continuing our series on revitalizing local markets through hospitality design, we’ll explore our Mercantile Hotel project in Missoula, Montana, and its impact on the town.

A History Built on Commerce

The second largest city in Montana, Missoula’s history dates back to 1858 when frontiersman William T. Hamilton first settled in the area with a trading post along the Rattlesnake Creek. Located at the convergence of five mountain ranges, the extraordinary beauty of Missoula attracted settlers looking to explore the American West. By the late 19th century, Missoula became Montana’s commercial hub with the opening of the Missoula Mercantile in 1885. Dominating the wholesale and retail trade in Missoula, the Mercantile quickly became the town’s central shopping headquarters for the city and surrounding areas.  

Fast forward to more recent times, and the western town was hit hard by the Great Recession. For a time, the vacancy rate in downtown hovered at 22%. Eventually the Mercantile building, which at the time was home to Macy’s, closed its doors in 2010, ending a historic chapter of Missoula’s rich commercial history. 

The Historic Mercantile Returns to Its Original Glory

Breathing new life into the shuttered Mercantile, a building that previously epitomized Missoula as an energetic commercial center in the region, was an essential step in revitalizing the downtown. JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE designed the Mercantile Hotel to pay homage to the rich history of a town born from a pioneering, marketplace spirit, and also reflect a promising new chapter for the community. 

The 175-room hotel includes a historic renovation of the pharmacy building and utilizes portions of the original Mercantile structure, connecting the hotel in its greater context. A destination for the outdoor enthusiast, The Mercantile Hotel includes materials and finishes that take cues from the area’s natural surroundings, nodding to the vibrant yet serene beauty that makes it an energizing place to explore. 

Bringing Vibrancy, Commerce Back to the Heart of Missoula 

At the Mercantile Hotel’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in February 2019, the town not only celebrated the re-opening of this historic building, but also a meaningful economic future for Missoula. Since the Mercantile’s opening, an influx of new restaurants and retailers have opened in the multi-use building, including women’s clothing store Olive and Iron, and a seafood and steak restaurant, 1889 – named for the year Montana officially became a U.S. state. A breakfast spot named Basil is set to open in the historic pharmacy building. Linda McCarthy, executive director of the Downtown Missoula Partnership, says interest in restaurant and ground floor retail space has recently picked up significantly in the downtown area. 

Missoula is also emerging on the map as one of the most desirable places to live in the United States. The town came in at number 59 on Liveability’s list of top 100 places to live, thanks to its beautiful natural landscape and growing commercial activity in the downtown area. 

The re-opening of the Mercantile building symbolizes a promising next chapter with new opportunities for businesses to thrive in downtown Missoula. We are truly honored to have designed The Mercantile Residence Inn and will continue to watch the lasting impact it has on this beloved western town.