MISSOULA -- Missoula city officials and the University of Montana agreed Monday to address a wide range of issues aimed at improving the quality of life in campus neighborhoods and the city’s downtown core.
Mayor John Engen, along with UM President Royce Engstrom and student body president Zack Brown, signed the “Community Quality of Life Initiative,” which sets forth a list of ambitious goals ranging from increased student housing to downtown parking.
“The city of Missoula and the university are inextricable,” Engen said. “We matter to each other, and we would not be the same without each other. So together, we’re going to work on planning together.”
The commitment binds Missoula and UM in a collaborative effort to see 1,000 new units of student housing built near the university within two years. The housing would likely be built near UM through a private-public partnership.
“We don’t have to build it, but we can be instrumental in making sure it gets built,” Engen said. “We’re committed over the course of the next two years to make sure there are 1,000 units of new housing available for students.”
Also addressed in the commitment is the city’s desire to win from the 2013 Legislature the authority to inspect existing residential rental properties for safety. And the commitment directs the city and UM to establish alternatives for downtown parking.
“We need to work collectively on transportation and parking issues,” Engen said. “We use remarkably valuable real estate around the university and downtown Missoula to park single occupancy vehicles. We think there’s a better way to do business.”
The commitment also joins Missoula and UM in addressing longstanding issues in the University District neighborhood.
Additional efforts will be made to address speeding, parties, underage drinking, litter and parking, while holding landlords accountable for the condition of their property.
“We need to apply more resources, officers and civilians throughout our community to deal with quality of life,” Engen said. “Those range from how to manage parties in neighborhoods, dogs off leash, garbage and litter. We have the beginnings of a program and will flesh that out.”
Engstrom called the commitment profound and long overdue. The agreement, he said, directs the university and the city to focus efforts and resources to make Missoula a better place to live.
“Living in a university town brings with it all kinds of benefits,” Engstrom said. “It also brings some challenges with it. This commitment makes a strong statement that we as a university and we as the city of Missoula want to come together and make this a model university community.”