At Monday night's Missoula City Council Meeting, one of the projects approved was the funding of the Mary Avenue extension as part of the overall expansion plans for Southgate Mall. 

Director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Ellen Buchanan, said the project is a public and private collaboration.

"There are two aspects to the project, one is private and one is public," Buchanan said. "The piece that the MRA is involved in is the Mary Avenue extension from Brooks Street to the west side of the Bitterroot branch rail line that will go through the mall property. There will be a subsequent phase of that where we will work with the residents and property owners on Mary Avenue between Reserve Street and Southgate Mall to determine the best design for a re-do of that street, because it will then become a through street between Reserve and Brooks."

Buchanan said the financing was approved by a unanimous vote at Monday night's city council meeting, and confirmed that no new tax monies will be levied on Missoula property owners.

"This is being financed with tax increment dollars, which is not additional dollars to anyone," she said. "It's the tax growth that has occurred in that Urban Renewal District over the last 15 years. Our board has approved just under $7 million dollars for the project."

Buchanan said the project will begin in the spring.

"I think you'll see construction and utility relocation pretty quickly, with real street construction probably in the spring."

Construction of the Mary Avenue Extension also requires the acquisition of rights of way and an easement from Montana Rail Link, the owner of the Bitterroot Branch Railroad Line, demolition of existing buildings, utility relocations and restoration of parking disturbed by the Mary Avenue Extension.