Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A request to vacate a sliver of ground in the Riverfront Triangle for future public access continues to inch forward, with a final vote set for later this month.

It may also suggest there's life in projects slated for the downtown property.

The city vacated the previous portion of Front Street right-of-way between Owen Street and West Broadway in 2017. The last piece, measuring around 2,000 square feet and now up for consideration, has been billed as a safety measure that has no other significant impacts.

“It's not a very safe intersection,” city planner Brandt Dahlen said Monday night. “It would be better to have it squared up or removed altogether.”

Wise Enterprise group in 2020 sought and received a rezone for the parcel of Riverfront Triangle property located at 601 West Broadway. The agreement included a trail easement running behind the parcel 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 601 W. Broadway property or offered a timeline.

“It's a blighted and vacant property,” Brandt said of the parcel. “This vacation has been going on for 18 months now. We've been negotiating conditions with the neighboring development, the Fox site. We're not trying couple the two projects, but we also want to ensure connectivity between them”

The Fox project also is slated for the Riverfront Triangle on an adjoining parcel of land owned by the city. As proposed, it would include a hotel, housing, underground parking and an entertainment venue.

However, it too has languished for years, and while it came under new ownership last year, the development team has not updated its progress in nearly a year.

Last April, Sadek Darwiche – a member of the development team – said his partners had “spent the last several months digging into due diligence and meeting with the various partners.”

At the time, Darwiche said the team would begin construction in the Second or Third quarter of this year, adding that “we feel we're in a comfortable space.”

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency in September told board members, “There is a lot of interest and a lot of movement. We'll know more next week about what's going on.” MRA has not offered an update since.

Other parcels within the Riverfront Triangle have been on the market for several years. In July 2020, Farran Realty Partners, which initially owned the development rights to the Fox site, shifted its real estate listing to Sterling CRE for several other parcels in hopes of landing a new partner.

An update on that portion of the project hasn't been offered.