Since 1984, Missoula has tried six times to develop its portion of the Riverfront Triangle, a prime piece of real estate at the southwest corner of Orange and Front streets along the Clark Fork River. Nothing's panned out. Now the city's betting on lucky number seven.
Earlier this month, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency issued another request for proposal for the city's 1.87 acres there, commonly called the "Fox Site," which in recent years has been a parking lot. "We've done this so many times for that site that I don't know if it's exciting or not," says the MRA's Chris Behan.
Roger Hobbs thinks it is. He's a local developer who's been encouraging the city to issue an RFP. He says he plans to submit a proposal before the June 29 deadline. "We're interested in creating jobs at that location and having a mixed-use of retail, restaurant, and medical office [space], and most likely a residential component as well," says Hobbs, who is also the owner of the Orange, Calif.-based builder R.C. Hobbs Company.
Hobbs says he envisions a four- or five-story building on top of a two-story, 300-space parking garage. The upper floors might have about 25 market-rate apartments. He forecasts the project would create about 700 jobs.
Hobbs's proposal might be more feasible than previous ones, which have included a controversial $60 million performing arts center. Most of his company's $500 million in projects over the last 35 years have been built in Los Angeles County, he says, but it owns and renovated two retail spaces in downtown Missoula.
Other proposals will probably come in as well. A hotel and conference center might be among them, Behan says. He adds that a "vertically mixed-use" development would be ideal.
"It's a cool site," he says. "It's pretty darn unique. We've always been pretty guarded about what might go in there. It really needs to be the right thing. It's a very important corner."