In the past few weeks, the Missoula City Council and HomeBase Montana, the Bozeman-based company that has purchased the Missoula Mercantile building, have come to a compromise agreement over the future of the historic structure.

HomeBase spokesman Andy Halloran said the process has been long, but thorough.

"We just recently completed a process in Missoula with the city council where they heard our appeal to the decision of the Historic Preservation Commission, and after a couple of months of deliberation and hearings and research, the city council ultimately voted to support our appeal," Halloran said. "As part of the compromise, we are going to preserve what they call the pharmacy building, which is in itself on the National Register of Historic Places, and we are going to keep the Mercantile Muse, a 4,000 to 5,000 square foot space that will connect the hotel common area and the various retailers, and we think that will be a dynamic museum-type space that can really pay tribute to the Mercantile history."

Halloran said if all things work together, progress on the building should begin fairly rapidly.

"In a perfect world, we would have a development agreement with the city by the end of this month, and we still have some significant environmental abatement work to complete which would go through September and part of October," he said. "Then, I anticipate a 90 day deconstruction process that would put us in the first quarter of 2017 for the start of construction."

Halloran outlined the scope of the overall project at present.

"The total project cost is $34 million, and that will include about 24,000 square feet of retail space that we hope to lease to lots of local restaurants, retailers and businesses," he continued. "We've got the Mercantile Muse in the hotel common area, and then above that we'll have approximately 154 room custom Residence Inn by Marriott. Our goal would be to open up by the early summer of 2018."

The project has faced significant delays due to protests by organizations such as 'Save the Merc', and the Historic Preservation Commission.