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Missoula leaders see great opportunity with Hotel Fox proposal - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Missoula leaders see great opportunity with Hotel Fox proposal

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MISSOULA -

Acknowledging some last-minute criticism, Missoula pushes ahead with plans for development at the Riverfront Triangle, ending decades of uncertainty.

It was just over five years ago the City of Missoula first began discussion with Hotel Fox Partners about the idea of using the Riverfront Triangle site for a new hotel. Initially, that's about all the project would have been.

But when Mayor John Engen asked developers to expand their vision, the proposal grew to encompass a 10,000-square-foot conference center, and eventually a much larger project which will change the west side of downtown.

In all, the Riverfront Triangle could amount to a $150 million investment providing hundreds of jobs.

However, not everyone sees it that way, including members of the Community Benefits Coalition, who've been fighting to include a "labor peace agreement" calling for union, family wage jobs.

"I think you're making a mistake with this project," said an unnamed speaker during Monday night's city council meeting. "If it was a good project it would have been done a long, long time ago." 

The final round of criticism came before the Missoula City Council on Monday night, but council members expressed optimism about the project, saying the developer's agreement would give the city more say in the future employment questions with the city operating the conference center. Some were reluctant to just turn those questions over to the CBC.

"The folks in the CBC who'd be doing those negotiations aren't elected people. The meetings would not be public, etc. So, it's just not something that I can support right now," said Missoula City Councilwoman Marilyn Marler. "But I am very open to continuing to work on something to address those concerns about living-wage jobs."

"I want to encourage the developers and the CBC to continue to talk and try to work through these things," said Missoula City Councilwoman Gwen Jones. "Just because we're not going to attach a labor peace agreement to this master agreement doesn't mean that the talking is over."

Above all, the city believes Hotel Fox is what will spark the overall project, ending more than 30 years of uncertainty about the Riverfront Triangle, a project which they say is only possible with the kind of partnership outlined in the developer's agreement they've unanimously approved.

"We will have long-term employment that will benefit this community vitality, and those will be good jobs."

The city and developer still have work to do on other agreements covering specific aspects of the project in the weeks to come.

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