Montana Rail Link Park set for spring construction off South Avenue

The 12-acre property includes the triangular lot pictured at center. The southern 4.5 acres will be developed as the new Montana Rail Link Park, while the city is working on plans to redevelop the 7.5 acres on the northern end. (Google)

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency on Thursday selected Dick Anderson Construction to manage work ahead of this spring’s groundbreaking for a new city park in an underserved Midtown neighborhood.

In a separate process, MRA also received approval from the agency’s board of directors to issue bids for the park’s playground and equipment.

“(Dick Anderson) will become part of our design team,” said Annette Marchesseault, the project manager with MRA. “They’ll put a very realistic cost estimate to those numbers and suggest ways to value engineer, or modify the details to make certain things are more constructable.”

Hiring Dick Anderson to oversee the pre-construction work is expected to save money by enabling the project to cut costs and stay on budget.

As part of its $6,500 contract, the firm will also prepare bid packages. While that may include a single bid, the company may suggest breaking the project down by tasks to cut costs.

“They’ll help us make that determination,” Marchesseault said. “They estimated the project would go out to bid by the fourth week in March, though it might be sooner. None of us want it to go past March and risk missing the competitive bidding season.”

Thursday’s action comes more than a year after the city secured 12 acres of Montana Rail Link property located between North and South avenues for $2 million, or roughly half the property’s appraised value.

Around 4.5 acres have been set aside for the new Montana Rail Link park. The City Council has already approved spending $390,000 from the 1995 Open Space bond to help purchase the property, and MRA will cover the rest through tax increment financing.

“MRL Park comes with four pieces – the purchase, the trail, the park, and how we develop the northern portion,” said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan. “We’ve put off issuing bonds for that because we wanted to see how the numbers came in for the trail.”

Buchanan placed the project’s total cost at around $4 million. Aside from the $2 million purchase price, the park will likely cost $1.5 million to build while the playground’s budget will be set below $180,000.

The trail (see accompanying story), was also awarded Thursday to Jag Grading and Paving for an amount not to exceed $424,000.

Buchanan said the city will look to develop the property’s remaining seven acres with housing and other commercial offerings. But that process hasn’t yet begun and isn’t expected anytime soon.

“That’s a whole other discussion,” Buchanan said. “There will probably be a request for proposals process and a public-private partnership with MRA and the private sector.”