Riverfront development in downtown Missoula moving toward final design, phasing

An artist’s rendering of plans for the Riverfront Triangle in downtown Missoula. Members of Riverfront Triangle Partners expect to have final design and phasing plans done by the end of the year and start construction alongside plans for a new hotel and events center. (CTA image)

With the construction and management of a downtown hotel and events center now in the hands of Clark Fork Riverfront Properties, the owners of the surrounding five acres on the Riverfront Triangle are moving forward with plans of their own.

Jim McLeod with the Farran Group and Riverfront Triangle Partners said they’ll begin writing a master plan for the five-acre residential and commercial development over the coming weeks.

“Our next step is to sit down and master plan the area,” McLeod told the Missoula Current. “The way we look at it, it would be phased along the river. Everything south of Front Street would go first, and then we’d move back over toward the area north of Front Street and south of Broadway, and start to build that out.”

Last week, the Missoula City Council transferred development rights for a piece of the Riverfront Triangle to Clark Fork Riverfront Properties, owned by Nick and Robin Checota.

The company plans to break ground on a 10-story hotel and condo building along with a 60,000-square-foot events center next summer. The $100 million project also includes an underground parking garage with a capacity for roughly 400 vehicles.

Riverfront Triangle Developers plan to begin the river-facing portion of the project in Phase 1, followed by additional housing and commercial at Orange and Broadway. (CTA image)

“It’s just a huge opportunity to have a transformational project in downtown Missoula,” Checota said last week. “We’re taking the conference center as it was envisioned originally and moving it more toward an events center.”

Prior to last week’s announcement, members of Hotel Fox possessed the development rights to the site and spent the past several years working through agreements and plans to move the project forward.

Along the way, they’ve also purchased surrounding properties in what’s collectively known as the Riverfront Triangle.

After the death of a key partner last year and challenges raising the investment needed to begin the massive project, Hotel Fox agreed to transfer the development rights to Checota. McLeod said that will enable his group to move forward with the other half of the project.

“When you look at the parts of the Triangle district over there, they all have to work together,” he said. “To phase it in, you run some risk there with market cycles. By having (Checota) work on the hotel and event center, and Pat (Corrick) and I focusing on the residential portion and retail, we can speed up the process.”

Details of the project have yet to be finalized, though it has long included a mix of housing, office and commercial space. McLeod said those details will emerge over the next two months.

“We’re working with the WGM Group right now on a model where we can look at how much parking we need to support residential and commercial,” McLeod said.

“If we get more residential, what does that mean for parking? That model has been completed, so we’re going through that exercise over the next couple of weeks. We’ll do some market research to figure out what the unit mix needs to be, and how many units the site can support.”

The Riverfront Triangle development will include a mix of commercial and housing options.

While the new Missoula Public Library wraps up construction on the east end of the downtown district and development of the new AC Hotel moves forward on Main Street, St. Patrick Hospital is expected to break ground in the coming weeks on its six-story medical facility.

That project, located on the western edge of downtown Missoula, will feature three floors of parking with 550 spaces. It’s slated for completion by early 2023.

By then, several projects on the Riverfront Triangle will also be well underway, effectively transforming the western reaches of the downtown district, which has long been neglected.

“You’ve got the hospital project going on, so there’s going to be a lot of activity going on over there over the next couple of years,” McLeod said. “For us, we feel there’s a huge need for not only commercial, but residential over in that area.”