Remodel, new business plan proposed for historic Hip Strip building

The owners of the historic Penwell building on Missoula's Hip Strip are planning to renovate it into a multi-functional space with a rooftop bar, event center and food hall. 

Ken Duce, a retired historic architect and Penwell building owner, said there are lots of issues with the building that raise safety concerns. He said the fire escapes are poorly done and extremely dangerous, with constant plumbing issues plaguing the building. 

"It's a 110-year-old building and the exterior was painted at some point, the paint needs to be removed, the windows need to be replaced," Duce said. 

The Penwell building sits near the intersection of Higgins and Third Street.

Duce says their goal is to remodel the basement floor into a speakeasy-inspired restaurant. Six retail businesses are currently located on the ground floor. Duce said he hopes to renovate the ground floor into an upscale food hall with a handful of different vendors. He described it as essentially "a bunch of food trucks that get together" with shared tables. 

Duce said there are 36 apartments on the upper level of the Penwell building. However, that could change if the renovations occur. He said his son, Kirk Duce, who works as the landlord to the apartment tenants, has been experimenting with Airbnb rentals. Duce said restoring historic buildings are costly and in order to afford the renovations, they plan to make them permanent Airbnb rentals. 

"We've always looked at the concept of a hotel, and the Airbnb idea is another way to make more money than standard rentals," Duce said. 

Duce said the top level will be made into a rooftop bar, deck and event center. 

But building owners said they can't move forward until they figure out parking in the area. City law requires a certain number of parking spaces for every table in a restaurant, and the Penwell would need an exemption from the city.

"That's the real problem, providing parking. Parking is dependent on what kind of uses you have, and if you have a restaurant, they require a lot of parking. 

Building owners said they hope to start renovations in 2020. 

Recommended for you