Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) While development slated for the Riverfront Triangle inches ahead behind the scenes, the City Council on Wednesday agreed to vacate the last sliver of unused right-of-way off Front Street to create a more usable building lot.

The city vacated the previous portion of Front Street right-of-way between Owen Street and West Broadway in 2017. The last piece, vacated Wednesday, was billed as a safety measure that had no other significant impacts.

“Vacating this right of way eliminates a pinch point and allows for a more usable area of site improvements on the parcel,” said Brandt Dahlen with Public Works. “This isn't a very safe intersection and it would be an improvement to have is squared up or removed all together.”

Wise Enterprise group in 2020 sought and received a rezone for a parcel of Riverfront Triangle property located at 601 West Broadway. The agreement included a trail easement running behind the parcel from West Broadway to the Riverfront Trail along the Clark Fork River.

The proposed project was set to break ground in 2021 and while plans were tentative, they suggested a multi-story building with a blend of retail and housing. But like many projects lined up at that time for the Riverfront Triangle, the project never broke ground.

The latest request for right-of-way vacation was submitted by the property's new owner, Riverfront LLC, represented by WGM Group. Members of the development team haven't released their plans for the property.

“We do not know what the specific details of the Riverfront Triangle are going to be right now,” said Public Works Director Jeremy Keene. “They're going through some iterations with new development teams and new ideas. This project is a standalone project with a new building that would go on that 601 property.”

A master plan for the Riverfront Triangle shows the converstion of Front Street to a public greenway leading to a central plaza. The right-for-way vacation is identified in red.
A master plan for the Riverfront Triangle shows the conversion of Front Street to a public greenway leading to a central plaza. The right-for-way vacation is identified in red at 601 West Broadway.

A master plan for the Riverfront Triangle identifies Front Street as a future greenway for bikes and pedestrians that feeds a central plaza. Together, the Riverfront Triangle includes roughly seven downtown acres and is expected to include a range of uses including housing, retail, commercial, parking and potential entertainment space.

The project has changed ownership in recent years and all projects have been stalled by the pandemic and changing market conditions. Wednesday's right-of-way request marked the first publicly noticed action relating to any of the Riverfront Trail parcels since April, when a new team of investors identified as Capital V Partners stepped in to take over the larger project.

The right-of-way vacation is small at roughly 2,500 square feet and simply squares off the parcel at 601 West Broadway.

“It's a relatively small parcel that's being vacated,” Keene said. “The public benefits we're getting is a trail easement and better safety.”