Howdy, Neighbor: Neighborhood Retail Makes a Comeback

Howdy, Neighbor: Neighborhood Retail Makes a Comeback

For Montana developers, cultivating the right mix of neighborhood retail is an art and science. Successful neighborhood retail operations like The Trough in Missoula or the Black Dog Coffee House in the Roots Garden Center in Billings nurture a sense of community and create walkable amenities. That’s good for local residents, helps encourage a safe pedestrian environment, and offers great benefits for retailers. 

But in recent years, the neighborhood retail scene has “hollowed out,” according to the Urban Land Institute. In Montana, some community hesitancy around mixed-use development has kept small, local retail development at bay.


Pandemic Pause

Neighborhood retail also took a big hit during the pandemic, as many shops were so small that even a few customers felt like a crowd and social distancing (even from neighbors taking a walk around the block) pushed us further from each other. 


Now, remote work has encouraged neighborhood retail use, as the WFH crowd is likely to seek out a nearby coffee shop or restaurant to break up their day at home. As more mixed-use developments spring up around the state, retailers have more options for expanding into a neighborhood location. 



Up and Coming

In Missoula, two neighborhood retail options are under construction. As the city expands, these locations serve quickly growing neighborhoods:

  • The Vista: located in Linda Vista, where scores of new housing units are being built meet an established community of homes, parks, and multifamily housing. The Vista will be home to The Den restaurant and The Market, a small market and coffee bar. The Linda Vista neighborhood is diverse in terms of age and life stage, so a variety of concepts could thrive in the area, from medical clinics to daycare.

  • Missoula Lofts: As part of the Missoula Lofts on West Broadway apartment community, several retail suites (including a drive-through) are under construction. The area will be home to 5,000+ new homes planned or under construction, all within ten minutes of the site. Features like onsite vehicle and bike parking allow for people to access the site easily, in addition to simply walking downstairs from the upper-floor apartments. 

Retail specialist Connor McMahon noted an uptick in interest for medical services, like urgent care clinics, in neighborhood retail. “Especially in the Linda Vista neighborhood, we’ve heard that there is a need for a small medical clinic,” he says. “It’s pretty convenient to have that service next door, instead of having to travel down the hill while you or your kiddo is feeling under the weather.” 

What kinds of neighborhood retail would you like to see in your area?