MISSOULA - The Missoula Redevelopment Agency board has recommended that the city council ink a package of agreements for construction of an $80 million downtown hotel and conference center.
MRA, Hotel Fox Partners and the City of Missoula have an agreement for a 200-room hotel and parking garage as well as the largest conference center in the region after five years of work and planning.
“We have a choice with this facility. It’s going to happen eventually. Somebody’s going to build a conference center to attract these larger events. Do we want to put it out on Reserve? Or do we want it to be in our downtown?" said Jeff Crouch with CTA Architects.
"Do we want it to be something that will enhance the things we cherish about our community? Or do we want it to be just another conference center that could be in, no offense because I grew up in the Midwest, could be in Columbus, Ohio," Crouch added.
The presentation on Wednesday afternoon detailed how the city would help by funding construction of the 60,000 square foot conference center, while Hotel Fox’s management team would operate it.
The seven-story hotel would be topped with three stories of private condominiums and there would also be an underground parking facility with over 400 spaces.
The designs, which are still being refined, include restaurants and shops, capped with the “great hall”, which could handle a sit-down dinner for 1,000 people.
The idea is to combine public-private resources, attracting up to 100,000 visitors per year, benefiting all of Missoula hospitality industry -- unlike a sole private developer.
“They would fill their hotel and they would stop. So they would build a big enough conference center to put on a wedding and have 200 keys rented and then they’re done," Crouch said. "This is a complete game changer because it fills our hotel up by many times.”
“And that is to float all boats if you will. And the other hotels would definitely benefit from this. This is not as close to competition as they might have seen in the past," added Chris Behan with the MRA.
The city would commit Tax Increment Financing from the Riverfront Triangle Urban Renewal District and would use parking revenue to help pay for the garage.
It;’s still expected to be another 18-to-24 months before the plans are finalized.