Crossing their fingers 

Despite the nation’s ongoing financial crisis, city officials and local builders are optimistic as bid requests go out for one of Missoula’s most anticipated downtown developments, the Riverfront Triangle.

“Many people say we’re insulated,” says Chris Behan, assistant director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, about how the bid process will be affected. While Behan admits the volatile market could change, he says he’s spoken to members of the building community who report construction costs are actually going down, one sign that bids could be competitive.

City Council approved the Riverfront Triangle request for proposals Sept. 22, calling for a mixed retail-residential-commercial-civic development at the southwest corner of Orange and Front streets. The council previously reserved the spot for a performing arts center, but lost confidence in that project’s ability to collect the necessary funding to construct the facility.

Tom Pew, owner of Pew Construction, supports Behan’s optimism. He says that softening timber prices and stabilized steel costs are balancing the impacts of soaring fuel expenses and other economic strains.

“Montana’s fortunate that we don’t have the same highs and lows as the national economy,” Pew says. “Commercially, we’ve remained strong in Missoula because a lot of the major projects are ongoing, and started well before this time.”

In regards to the Riverfront Triangle site, Behan says he’s confident the Missoula market will remain favorable for a project of this size.

“When you’re dealing with, say, a $20 million project, even a 2 or 3 percent difference in your construction costs is a big deal,” he says.

Proposals for the site are due by January 8, 2009.
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