City Council OKs $610K loan to Riverfront Triangle developers for environmental cleanup

Several dilapidated properties in the Riverfront Triangle are slated for demolition ahead of an infill project. The city will allocate roughly $640,000 in EPA Brownfields loans to rid the property of contaminants, including asbestos. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

If the Missoula City Council approves the use of Brownfields funding for the Riverfront Triangle, a parking lot pit at the corner of Orange and Front streets may eventually rise into a major hotel and convention center.

On Wednesday afternoon, the City Council’s Administration and Finance Committee unanimously approved a $610,000 loan agreement with Riverfront Triangle Partners LLC to clean asbestos and other hazardous materials in buildings within the Riverfront Triangle.

The Triangle is bounded by Broadway Avenue on the north, Orange Street on the east and the Clark Fork River on the south and west.

The city will provide the loan out of its Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund, which was created in 2004 and will sunset in August.

“The redevelopment plan awaits demolition,” said Brownfields coordinator John Adams. “The goal is to revolve the funding and facilitate the project.”

A piece of property is designated as a “brownfield” when it has been contaminated, usually by industry, and Missoula has had a number of brownfields because of its historic lumber mills and related factories such as the White Pine Sash site.

The Environmental Protection Agency gave Missoula its first Revolving Loan Fund grant of $1 million in 2004. Since then, the city has received a handful of supplemental RLF grants totaling $2.7 million in all.

Unlike regular grants, revolving loan funds are accounts that allow the city to give out low-interest loans to contractors or qualified nonprofit organizations.

In this case, the city of Missoula will provide Riverfront Triangle Partners LLC with an eight-year loan at 1 percent interest. In exchange, the company will carry out $600,000 worth of asbestos treatment and deal with four lead-lined examination rooms in the old Western Montana Clinic building. The project must be completed this summer.

“This is a positive step as far as moving dirt,” said Mayor John Engen.

In 2016 and 2017, the city used a Brownfields assessment grant to evaluate potential soil contamination and hazardous building materials on Riverfront Triangle Partners-owned properties.

Once the contamination is removed, the developers can move forward with plans for building a convention center, hotel, housing, office space, medical office space, large and small retail spaces, restaurants and parking.