At the intersection of Front and Future.

Missoula Riverfront Triangle Project

It was once a destination at the heart of Missoula, a vibrant nexus where our community connected with the rest of the world. It will be that again.

Envisioned by civic and community leaders and executed by a Montana-based development team with both local and international experience, the Riverfront Triangle project will be more than a collection of buildings on Missoula's riverfront.

It will define the western gateway to our downtown — and help shape our city's future.

THE VISION

The Riverfront Triangle project will transform the equivalent of three city blocks of Missoula's core into a hub of community and commerce.

In December of 2011, Hotel Fox Partners was selected by the Missoula City Council to plan a hotel and conference center on the so-called Fox Site — a 1.8-acre, city-owned parcel (currently used as a parking lot) bounded by Orange and Front streets on the north bank of the Clark Fork River. Since then, we've collaborated with city and agency officials and successfully negotiated with adjacent property owners, including Providence Health & Services, parent of St. Patrick Hospital, to dramatically expand the vision for this project.

The Riverfront Triangle project will be one of the two largest urban infill projects in Montana history (the other being right across the river at the Old Sawmill District), encompassing high-density development on an area bounded by the Clark Fork River, and Broadway and Orange streets.

When completed it will:

  • Provide a diverse mix of employment, guest lodging, office, meeting, residential and shopping options.
  • Honor Missoula's unparalleled beauty, vibrant culture and rich history.
  • Expand the downtown core with a dynamic new western gateway.

Needless to say, a project of this magnitude and ambition takes time to develop in a thoughtful manner. Some elements may change as we continue our due diligence and revise our plan. Today the plan includes the following elements:

The proposed 25,000-square-foot Missoula Conference Center will be the largest meeting space between Spokane and Billings. Featuring a large ballroom and a wide range of meeting and breakout rooms, this flexible space overlooking the Clark Fork River will draw a variety of events to Missoula that our community cannot currently accommodate.

Conference attendees and other guests will find convenient and comfortable accommodations at a 200-plus room full-service hotel. This nationally branded hotel will bring luxury accommodations to Missoula for the first time.

A key goal of Missoula's Downtown Master Plan is ensuring that our downtown remains a place where people not only work but also live. Our plan responds to that with a range of for-sale and rental residences, all just steps away from the riverfront trail system.

The current plan includes 200 one- and two-bedroom units of workforce, market-rate and senior rental housing, plus 50 two- and three-bedroom for-sale condominium units. In other words, housing that reflects the diversity and connectedness of our community.

Facing Orange Street just north of the conference center will be a new, 25,000-square-foot anchor retail space. Tenant negotiations are ongoing, but we are confident that this will add a highly desirable new business to the downtown mix — one that will serve all Missoulians.

Much of the remaining street frontage along Broadway and Owen streets will be occupied by another 10,000-plus square feet of boutique retail shops.

Visitors to Missoula often comment on the limited number of restaurants overlooking the Clark Fork River. That will change with this new development. Our plan calls for two new restaurant spaces, both with outdoor seating that directly overlooks the Clark Fork.

Our plan calls for approximately 50,000-plus square feet of office space — all constructed to meet the needs of specific, identified tenants. With the highest data bandwidth available in Missoula, plus across-the-street proximity to St. Patrick Hospital, these new offices will likely become home to a wide range of professional, high-tech and medical users.

New parking areas will be key to serving the many people working, living and visiting here. Our plan calls for at least two underground parking garages (beneath the conference center hotel and the residential buildings), plus one above-grade structure. All told, we plan to add approximately 800-plus new parking spaces — enough to accommodate not just the businesses and residences in the Riverfront Triangle development, but also the general public when visiting downtown.

While many specifics of this development are yet to be determined, we do know that the project will be built under a philosophy of sustainability, efficiency and environmental sensitivity.

Toward those ends, we will partner with a local deconstruction contractor to minimize waste, and to maximize material reuse and recycling during construction. We are committed to energy efficiency and water savings both during the construction phases and in the operations of the buildings over time. Our design will preserve water quality, habitat and shoreline integrity of the adjacent section of the Clark Fork River.

During our city's early years, Missoula's built environment largely ignored the beauty of the Clark Fork River. Today, thanks to a growing river trail and park system, our community embraces this spectacular natural asset like never before.

Our plan creates a vital extension and connection of Missoula's river trail system — on both sides of the river. We will accomplish this by extending the trail on the north bank of the Clark Fork further west through the development site, allowing the trail to eventually connect to Broadway Street. We will work jointly with developmental agencies to help facilitate a new pedestrian / bike bridge across the river to McCormick Park and its links to the Milwaukee and Kim Williams Nature trails.

The Riverfront Triangle is a place where more than a century of urban history intersects with Missoula's natural centerpiece, the Clark Fork River. Our design program embraces those inherent site qualities, creating both literal and metaphorical bridges that will strengthen community connectedness, elaborate on local architectural vernacular and extend Missoula's growth as a regional hub of commerce and culture.

We start with a focus on high-density development, terracing multistory structures to maximize land use while preserving a sense of pedestrian scale that blends with the rest of Missoula's downtown core. Architecturally, we will merge contemporary style with Missoula heritage in designs that echo and elaborate on the best of our downtown landmarks.

Missoula is hailed as one of the most pedestrian- and bike-friendly communities in America. Our plan embraces that identity with a pedestrian plaza leading down to the river. A greenway pedestrian street from Broadway to the hub of our project serves as both an urban park space and commuter connector. Additionally, we support a walking bridge across the river and other elements designed to enhance public space.

Built into everything will be the recognition that Missoula is an ever-changing community. By incorporating a diverse mix of uses, sizes, price points and design into the overall project, we help assure that the Riverfront Triangle can accommodate future changes in both the economic conditions and the structural needs of our community.

THE IMPACT

Hundreds of new jobs. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual tax revenues. Tens of millions of dollars of investment in Missoula.

The Riverfront Triangle project represents the largest planned capital investment to date in a Montana city. At an estimated cost of more than $150 million, this project will bring significant short-term and long-term benefits to Missoula's downtown:

  • New opportunities for workers across a range of professions and experience levels.
  • New funding for local schools and infrastructure through taxes paid by Riverfront Triangle property owners, businesses and visitors.
  • New sales and income for other businesses downtown and throughout the community.

Needless to say, a project of this magnitude and ambition takes time to develop in a thoughtful manner. Some elements may change as we continue our due diligence and revise our plan. Today the plan includes the following elements:

Over the next few years, the Riverfront Triangle area will be buzzing with construction activity. That's good news for local engineering, architecture and construction firms and their employees.

We anticipate that the total project will support approximately 800 construction and related jobs over a period of five to eight years. Any jobs associated with governmental assistance (work completed using tax increment financing, for example) will pay at or above the prevailing wage, in accordance with the federal Davis-Bacon Act.

With its proximity to downtown and the St. Patrick Hospital campus, we anticipate that the Riverfront Triangle will eventually be the work address of hundreds of professional, medical, technical, retail and service workers of all ages, experience levels and incomes.

Preliminary estimates by Conventions Sports & Leisure International and Dr. Patrick Barkey, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, indicate that the Riverfront Triangle project will result in a net increase of more than 500 permanent jobs across Missoula by 2025 with sustained annual income of approximately $20 million.

The Missoula Conference Center will greatly expand the types of events — and number of attendees — that can be hosted in Missoula. As a point of comparison, the new conference center will be the largest urban conference space between Billings and Spokane.

That means more people visiting and spending money in Missoula. With the support of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Missoula Tourism Business Improvement District, Missoula Downtown Association and Missoula Business Improvement District, we commissioned a conference center market and economic analysis study from Conventions Sports & Leisure International, the country's leading event center consultancy. Its analysis projects that once the conference center is fully operational it will draw an additional 120,000–150,000 visitors to Missoula each year. Those visitors will spend money locally and contribute approximately $14 million in new economic activity to Missoula each year.

New buildings, new workers, new equipment: The growth stimulated by the Riverfront Triangle project will also expand downtown's tax base.

That means more money for local schools and infrastructure — over $1 million in new property tax revenues annually — as well as positive impacts on state and federal budgets through payroll and business equipment taxes.

The Riverfront Triangle isn't an island. The residents, visitors and workers who spend time here will also spend money at nearby downtown businesses and throughout the community.

As discussed above under “Increased Visitors,” the conference center market and economic analysis study performed by Conventions Sports & Leisure found that just the new convention center alone would generate approximately $14 million in new spending across our community every year. That doesn't even begin to factor in the expenditures by Riverfront Triangle businesses, employees and residents on shopping, professional services, dining, household expenses and more.

In fact, we don't think it's a stretch to say that over time the Riverfront Triangle project will impact every company that does business in Missoula. For some, that impact will be significant.

THE TIMELINE

It takes time to make history. We've made significant progress, but much still lies ahead.

As outlined in the Vision section of this website, the Riverfront Triangle project significantly overdelivers on the promise we made to the city of Missoula in 2011. What began as a 1.8-acre development has quadrupled in scope and estimated budget.

Nobody in Missoula is more excited than we are to see the end result. We've already invested more than half a million dollars of private capital and thousands of hours into this project to ensure its success.

We can't yet say when the whole project will be completed. Here's what we do know:

Shortly after the Missoula City Council awarded Hotel Fox Partners the exclusive right to plan the development of the Fox Site, Missoula Mayor John Engen asked us to explore the possibility of expanding the scope of the project — and, in particular, building a much larger conference center than we had outlined in our proposal to the city.

To do so, we needed more developable land. So we reached out and ultimately entered into negotiations with St. Patrick Hospital's parent Providence Health & Services, which owns most of the remaining real estate in the Riverfront Triangle, including the old Western Montana Clinic building and parking structure immediately west of the Fox Site.

In 2015 we arrived at an agreement to purchase that property from Providence. Along the way, we also purchased the commercial property on the southwest corner of Orange and Broadway from a private owner.

As a result, we now can move forward with planning and development of the entire 7-acre Riverfront Triangle.

  • Traffic Impact Study
  • Parking Revenue and Expense Projections
  • Phase I Environmental Site Assessment & Phase II Environmental Assessment
  • Floodplain Assessments
  • Utility Investigations
  • Meeting and Coordination with the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation
  • Parking Supply / Demand Assessment
  • Multiple meetings with Missoula citizens, including the Missoula Community Benefits Coalition, listening to their concerns and goals for the site

In late 2016 we anticipate finalizing a set of key agreements with local elected and agency officials. Those include a master development agreement, a land use agreement, an agreement vacating the right-of-way for a portion of Front Street and a rezoning agreement for the entire site.

Barring unexpected complications in finalizing those agreements, we expect to continue with architectural and financial analysis, update the market studies and marketing plan, begin construction drawings, obtain necessary building permits and ultimately break ground on the first phase of the project in 2017.

We are planning the project to be carried out in three to four phases — one for the residential components, one for the hotel and conference center, and the other two for the retail and office components. Those phases may overlap with each other. All along the way we will continue to refine and test designs with the goal of creating one-of-a-kind properties that add value to Missoula's downtown core.

At present we anticipate that the entire Riverfront Triangle project will be completed between five and eight years after initial groundbreaking; that rough estimate could change as detailed plans continue to be developed.

THE TEAM

A generation of Missoula residents has shaped the vision for tomorrow's Riverfront Triangle. Our team of seasoned development professionals is now ready to move that vision forward.

The Riverfront Triangle project has its roots in a communitywide discussion about the future of Missoula. That discussion formally began with a 2002 conceptual planning charrette hosted by the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and Providence / St. Patrick Hospital. Even before then, numerous discussions and proposals focused on transforming the Riverfront Triangle into an integrated and vital part of Missoula's downtown.

Our plan for the Riverfront Triangle distills those efforts as well as the ongoing involvement of governmental and nonprofit groups including the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Mountain Line, the Missoula Bicycle / Pedestrian Program, Missoula Housing Authority, Clark Fork Coalition, Homeword, Missoula Downtown Association, Missoula Tourism Business Improvement District, Missoula Business Improvement District and others.

We will continue to work with those and other partners to make sure that the vision for the Riverfront Triangle remains deeply rooted in the needs of our entire community.

Please watch this website for upcoming meetings where you can learn more and share your ideas about the project.

We've assembled a deep bench of local talent with national and international experience to assure the success of the Riverfront Triangle project:

AVERILL FAMILY HOSPITALITY

The Averills are a fifth-generation Montana family. Sean and Brian Averill bring decades of experience in hospitality management. Their grandfather Les Averill purchased the Flathead Lake Lodge in 1945 after he returned from World War II. For the past decade, the Averills have operated the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, Montana's only hotel to earn AAA's Four Diamond Award.

DIETER HUCKESTEIN

Dieter Huckestein will spearhead the hotel and convention center operations. He brings a level of experience and understanding to the Riverfront Triangle project that is unparalleled. A 44-year veteran of the hospitality industry, he is former chairman and CEO of Conrad Hotels and past board member and president of hotel operations for Hilton Global Alliance, both part of Hilton Worldwide. In addition, Huckestein is past chairman of the American Hotel & Lodging Association and past president of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association.

FARRAN REALTY PARTNERS

Farran is a real estate investment and development company focused on developing and acquiring residential and mixed-use properties. Principals Pat Corrick and Jim McLeod were born and raised in Montana and together bring nearly 50 years of real estate experience to this project. Today, over a dozen Farran projects operate in the state of Montana, including Avenue C in Billings, Corso Apartment Homes in Missoula, and a $37 million student housing project that broke ground in September 2016 at the intersection of Front and Clay streets in Missoula.

CTA ARCHITECTS ENGINEERS

Montana's largest and oldest architecture and engineering firm, CTA has grown to provide a variety of building services from offices in 18 cities across North America. Each year, CTA completes more than 1,200 projects, translating into $400 million in construction costs. Projects include educational facilities, medical clinics, hospitals and residences, as well as recreational, commercial, retail and industrial developments. Senior Project Manager Jeff Crouch and Principal and senior designer David Koel are leading the architectural design process for the Riverfront Triangle project.

WGM GROUP

For more than four decades WGM Group has served Missoula's engineering and consulting needs. Headquartered on the north bank of the Clark Fork River approximately 1.2 miles upstream from the Riverfront Triangle, WGM Group has deep experience in complex land use planning, surveying, civil engineering, environmental and water resource projects.