City council, MRA approve Missoula Riverfront Triangle Project

Posted at 6:32 PM, Oct 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-16 22:15:09-04

The Missoula Riverfront Triangle Project has received approval by Missoula Redevelopment Agency and Missoula City Council after years of setbacks and hurdles.

The MRA gave unanimous approval Wednesday morning to the change in partners, and the city council followed suit later in the day. This now clears the way for construction that may start as soon as next year.

Real estate developer and music promoter Nick Checota needed the city's approval for a transfer of development rights from Hotel Fox Partnership, which has been working on plans to place a hotel and conference center on the vacant land along the Clark Fork River.

Checota is proposing to use local investors to build the new hotel and parking structure. He believes the project will be more successful if the envisioned "conference center" becomes a larger events center.

Checota told the MRA board this morning that he could bring tens of thousands of people to Missoula to see concerts and other events, as opposed to the few hundred utilizing a conference center.

He is hoping to use local investors to finance the project, saying he's already talking with "4 or 5" potential partners. He estimates construction could start by next summer.

Mayor John Engen expressed his confidence at having Checota tackle the project, saying there's "less risk" than the previous approach.

"The speed with which we're bringing this to you has everything to do with seizing opportunity,” said Mayor Engen.

"We're an operating business in Missoula that has other streams of income other than just real estate,” Checota said. “So, if real estate conditions occur that are unfavorable and cause difficulties for a developer, we're not as subject to those as most developers would be because we have these other streams of business."

Terms of the amended deal extend the lease from 50 to 75 years.

The city's backing of the project is aimed at removing "blight," by finding a better use for the waterfront site, which has been vacant since the old Hotel Fox was torn down in the 1980s.

Missoula leaders believe the development would spur the economy, and help with parking capacity on the west side of downtown.