Missoula Design Excellence

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Design Excellence Overlay: Quality Design for a Quality Place

The Design Excellence overlay works to keep our built environment distinct, original, and uniquely Missoula. Much like its natural environment, people have been drawn to Missoula for its specific character and identify. Design Excellence strives to maintain what we love about this place, it fosters quality development and caters to the eclecticism that makes the Garden City unique.

The Design Excellence Overlay applies architectural design standards and guidelines to Missoula's primary commercial areas, including the Downtown and main Commercial Corridors. 

Updated Design Excellence Application

“The Community Development, Planning, and Innovation Department has updated the Design Excellence Review application materials to simplify the application process for projects within the Design Excellence Overlay. While the former application (sometimes referred to as the “checklist”) was based on compliance with the guidelines of the Design Excellence Manual, the new application will evaluate compliance with the zoning standards of Design Excellence Overlay (per Title 20). The intention of this change is to reduce confusion about the evaluation criteria for projects, shift the focus of the review to the elements required by zoning instead of the recommendations of the Guidelines, and minimize the need for revisions and resubmittals. 

Each application is tailored to a specific Design Excellence district and includes guidance on the applicability, standards, and measurement rules for each required item. Any standard not met should be designated as “Not Applicable” depending on the scope of the project, or addressed with an accompanying Design Variation request. Each Design Excellence Review submittal should include a completed application form, a completed Design Variation request form (if applicable), a completed guideline checklist, and visual materials including site plans, landscaping plans, floor plans building elevations, etc.

 The updated application can be found here. The Applications coordinate with the specific Design Excellence district, if you need information regarding which district your project is in you may either check the maps linked below or email the zoning desk.”

Overlay Boundaries

The guiding force behind the Overlay is coordinating future development in the city with place-making goals based on community input and values. The Overlay is divided into nine different sub-districts; five in the downtown, and four in the commercial corridors. View the Overlay map here to locate which sub-district an individual parcel is in, or visit the city's What's My Zoning map.

Overlay Standards

All projects in the Overlay are required to meet zoning standards for the applicable overlay sub-district. Visit the Overlay Subdistricts and Standards page to view the standards for a specific sub-district or corridor typology.

Design Excellence Review

Some projects in the Overlay are also required to comply with applicable design guidelines from the Design Manual through a process called Design Excellence Review. All projects in the downtown and Typology 1 corridors require a Design Excellence Review for project approval. Projects in corridor typologies 2, 3 & 4 may require Design Excellence Review depending on the project. Visit the Design Excellence Review page to see what triggers a Design Excellence Review, and for information on what is involved in a Design Excellence Review application.

Design Variation Requests

The Design Excellence Overlay allows for alternative design approaches to meet the Overlay Standards, provided that the varying design meets the intent of the standards being varied from, and that the design of the project as a whole meets the relevant design guidelines in the Design Manual. Any project requesting a Design Variation Request requires Design Excellence Review.