Northside-Westside

northside-building

This is an active and energetic neighborhood that is always working harder, coming together, and making itself better every day.

Within easy walking and biking distance from downtown and quick access to I-90 from Orange Street, the Northside-Westside Neighborhood moves from urban living into that traditional neighborhood appeal. This section of Missoula was developed early when the mills and the railroad were thriving. In fact, Montana Rail Link’s line bisects the neighborhood, yet the Northside and Westside are connected by both the Scott Street Bridge and the pedestrian bridge.  Actually, the connection runs much deeper than that. While many new residents have moved into the neighborhood, particularly first-time homebuyers and young families, a large majority of the neighbors planted their roots here decades ago. The ties to this hardworking area remain strong, evidenced by the heavy involvement of the community in neighborhood projects and prosperity. Many of the homes here have front porches and people tend to use them. They know and take care of one another in the Northside-Westside neighborhood. They pitch in when a job needs doing and celebrate a job well done. Because of this hands-on approach, the Northside-Westside Neighborhood is known for a do-it-yourself mentality and a sustainable approach to home improvement. Creating beauty at home extends into the neighborhood’s burgeoning art community as well. Efficient and eclectic use of space and passionate neighbors makes the Northside-Westside Neighborhood truly one of a kind.

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A collective enthusiasm characterizes the Northside-Westside. Your garden, your projects, your home are points of pride for everyone.

northside-food-coopThe Northside-Westside Neighborhood is part of Missoula’s oldest collection of neighborhoods, which also includes part of the downtown residential area. Most of the original residents worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad, industries associated with the railroad, or nearby St. Patrick Hospital. The decline of the railroad, the construction of Interstate 90, the subsequent closure of another major employer, Garden City Brewery, in the 1960s, and then the discontinuation of Amtrak service to Missoula in 1970 dealt a series of blows to this strong working class neighborhood over a period of decades. Despite the hardships, the Northside-Westside Neighborhood has maintained its historic ties and engrained work ethic to this day. While its engine is no longer the railroad, its driving force is building a strong community.

Living here, you’re just a short walk or bike ride to the Farmers’ Market or Caras Park. However, many residents have their own gardens or cultivate a plot in the Northside Community Garden, which is managed by Garden City Harvest, on the corner of Cooley and Holmes.  On a Saturday summer night, you could certainly head downtown to take in a show, but you could just as easily walk to the old Whittier School on northside-mud-projectWorden for the Missoula Outdoor Cinema. Albertson’s and the Orange Street Food Farm are fairly close, but you can shop locally at the Missoula Community Food Co-op on Burns Street. The Co-op is one of only three all-working-member-run models of its kind in the United States. And of course, you can always hop on the highway and head to Reserve Street to hit the chain hardware stores if you need to buy a rototiller. However, as a member of the Missoula Urban Demonstration (MUD) Project located on Phillips Street, you can borrow or “check out” a rototiller from the Tool Library and put the money saved to other home improvement projects.

That’s the beauty of the Northside-Westside. Residents develop and embrace alternative options close to home. There’s a bootstrap-inspired creativity that pushes residents to not simply come up with out-of-the-box ideas, but to actually see them to completion. There are so many examples on the Northside-Westside that one may wonder if ingenuity is “in the water.” The growing art colony on North First Street has taken old mercantile and warehouse buildings from the railroad heyday and converted them into places of inspiration. The Zootown Arts Community Center (ZACC) is one such place where artists and students of all ages can come together in a shared space to appreciate and practice their craft. Around the holidays, the ZACC hosts the Missoula Made Fair where local artists sell their wares to promote locally-made gifts under the tree. The Made Fair makes a come back in Caras Park in the summer as well. Several other galleries line the block, including the Gold Dust Art Gallery. And just down from the ZACC, the Northside Kettlehouse Brewery is practicing the artistry of beer brewing in a new facility dedicated to its canning endeavor. The large taproom space pays homage to the neighborhood’s railroad history, with high ceilings, exposed steel beams, and a railcar bar front. The bar top is a quirky salvage item – the bowling lane flooring from the demolition of Liberty Lanes bowling alley. Art and collaboration co-exist in an even more unexpected habitat as you head farther west. The Clay Studio of Missoula on Hawthorne is the city’s comprehensive ceramic center. Nearby, the Ceretana Studios and Gallery may appear to be an old grain elevator on Sherwood Street, but this collective space is an imaginative gem in this industrial section just off the tracks.

While much of the Northside-Westside Neighborhood development is restoring existing structures, some new projects have emerged harkening back to the style and history of the neighborhood’s roots. HomeWORD, an organization committed to providing affordable residential opportunities built sustainably, constructed The Gold Dust Apartments on First Street using hands-on volunteer help. This building, complete with a rooftop garden, fits with the surroundings, while also showcasing how a new idea can be integrated into an existing community. Beyond the residential blocks, neighbors also enjoy the wilder side of Missoula. The Northside Greenway allows for easy bike access to downtown and the Riverfront Trail. Bikers and hikers can also access the North Hills trails in the Rattlesnake from North Second Street, which intersects with Greenough Drive. In a place where restoration is recreation, the Northside-Westside is built firmly on its unique aesthetic.

Perhaps the most important element of the Northside-Westside Neighborhood’s success is due to the North Missoula Community Development Corporation (NMCDC). Among this grassroots organization’s accolades is securing a place for the 20-block “North Missoula Railroad Historic District” on the National Register of Historic Places, helping to bring in the trail system known as the Northside Greenway, developing “Project Playground” at the Lowell School, and continuing to actively promote affordable home ownership in the neighborhood. One of NMCDC’s major programs is developing the Burns Street Center with opportunities for affordable housing. NMCDC also protected, preserved, and currently manages the Moon-Randolph Homestead, a historic property two miles from downtown in the Rattlesnake foothills. Visit the NMCDC website for a complete history of the Northside-Westside neighborhood and learn more about this organization’s work.

Reclamation and renovation of existing structures are a big part of the Northside-Westside neighborhood’s growth. Across the street from the Zoo City Arts Community Center is the Stensrud Building, a meticulously restored building used for exhibits, events, and gathering space, that just a few years ago might have been slated for the wrecking ball. A “Show Me” Missourian turned Missoulian, Mark Kersting, took on the restoration project and developed the Stensrud into a beautiful community space. Read more about Kersting and his project here.

Many of us remember the various ways we kept up on the comings and goings of our hometowns and neighborhoods. Whether it was through the grapevine, a community group, or the weekly newspaper, we had a resource for information and an outlet to share our thoughts. The LiveMissoula! neighborhood blogs revisit that concept in a new way by providing an open, online destination where neighborhood stories can be posted and shared. To contribute to the discussion, we encourage you to add your comments. If you have an idea for a story, contact the Neighborhood Volunteer Advocate listed under each neighborhood’s Fast Facts pages.