MISSOULA - The Missoula City Council has given its approval to proceed with development of a new $80 million downtown hotel and conference center.
The vote gives Hotel Fox Partners the green light to start working on final designs and plans for the project at the Riverfront Triangle property on the west side of downtown.
The Missoula Redevelopment Agency has been working on the Hotel Fox project for the past six years, hoping to pull together plans for the Riverfront Triangle property that's been underutilized since the city acquired the old Fox Theater in the mid-1980s.
Now, after nearly a year of negotiations, the city has an agreement where Missoula will provide the land for the hotel, conference center and condominiums. Hotel Fox will build the facility, and the city will own the conference center.
The city council signed off on the contracts Monday night, with council members calling the action a major economic boost for downtown, without putting the city's general financial condition at risk.
"One of the things we really worked on was, how do we minimize, or eliminate ideally, and risk or requirement from the general fund," explained Councilman Bryan von Lossberg. "So there is zero input from the general fund needed on an annual basis and that's a really good thing."
Councilwoman Gwen Jones believes the agreement finally gives the city a solution to use the valuable land, which is adjacent to the Clark Fork River.
"We can either look at a parking lot for the next few decades, or we can do something where we're going to be compensated for the land that we own and we're also going to be investing in the future and creating a huge economic engine, and an anchor on that side of downtown," Jones said.
It's expected to be another 18 months before the Hotel Fox designs are final. Eventually, the project could provide the anchor for the larger Riverfront Triangle development.