A possible game changer in the long running debate about the new Missoula College as Mayor John Engen proposes an idea that could change the face of downtown. The spot is the Riverfront Triangle on Orange Street and Front Street downtown.
The Montana Legislature set aside $29 million for the college. But the question remains -- where? Engen thinks the riverfront spot is ideal.
“We're close to businesses, we're close to health care, and we’ve got great access to technology, all good stuff,” Engen said.
It's a complicated location. A group of western Montana developers have the 1.87 acres the city owns on hold until January 2014. They want to use the site for Hotel Fox, named after the Fox Theater that sat on the land from 1950 until the early 1990s when the city tore it down.
Developers are still working on the plans but preliminary ideas include a 200-room hotel with an additional conference center. Engen said it would work well with Missoula College.
“You've got a hotel that does catering and conferences, we have a conference center here, we have a hospital that feeds people, the opportunity for folks to sort of hone their culinary skills is pretty amazing,” Engen said.
Saint Patrick Hospital owns an additional seven acres or so in the area. Engen says the college, hotel, and possibly some businesses could all fit in the area.
University of Montana officials are looking at the Riverfront Triangle as a possibility. But they’re also still looking at the controversial South Campus which is currently home to the UM Golf Course. Also on the list is property on East Broadway across the Clark Fork River, adjacent to the Montana Technology Enterprise Center. A location at Fort Missoula has also been discussed.
A public forum is in the works to discuss the options. The University has yet to set a date.