Five developers eye Triangle

Missoula's Riverfront Triangle, at the corner of North Orange and West Front streets, was once the town dump. The piece of prime riverfront property has gone through a couple of transformations since then. The landmark Fox Theater occupied a portion of the site for decades. The land has largely remained vacant in recent years, despite the fact that Missoula has tried six times to develop its 1.87-acre slice of the site.

The city is making another go of it. In May, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency invited developers to submit project proposals for what's referred to as the "Fox Site." The submission deadline passed at the end of last month, leaving Missoula Redevelopment Agency's Assistant Director Chris Behan to sift through proposals from five companies that all have their eyes set on bringing the property back to life.

"All these people are very serious and experienced," Behan says. "They all have big plans."

Three developers—Hotel Fox Partners, the Riverfront Triangle Group, and Intermountain Management—propose building a hotel. A fourth submission from Banks Street Partners suggests housing. Roger Hobbs, of the Orange, Calif.-based R.C. Hobbs Company, is pitching a medical office and apartments. Most of the proposals also incorporate office, retail and restaurant space.

A selection committee, made up of MRA staff and community members, will evaluate the proposals. "Then we'll forward a referral to the MRA Board for one or more (project recommendations)," Behan says.

From there, the city will select one proposal and continue working with the selected developer to ensure the project is economically and aesthetically appropriate, Behan says.

Developing the site smartly has the potential to reap significant tax benefits for the city, says Downtown Business Improvement District Director of Operations Rod Austin. Austin says he'd love to see a hotel and conference center built on the Fox Site: "It would be another feather in the cap of downtown."

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