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University of Montana President Royce Engstrom speaks at the start of a public forum in September 2013 on where to locate Missoula College.

TOM BAUER/Missoulian

A seven-acre patch of undeveloped ground on East Broadway will undergo a transformation over the next few years as Missoula College prepares to lay claim to its new location.

But before ground is broken sometime in late 2014, the architects at StudioFORMA will set out to design a new building that adheres to state-mandated energy standards, and to complete an environment assessment to ensure impacts to the Clark Fork River are negligible.

A building committee at Missoula College also will work to identify the school’s needs during the project’s first phase of development. Yet if all goes as planned, architects believe the new building will enhance the river corridor and set a rejuvenating tone for Missoula’s eastern edge.

“That whole stretch of the river is rather unkempt and ragged, and it would be cleaned up tremendously, becoming much more of a public space,” said StudioFORMA architect Mark Headley. “We envision lots of public seating spaces with public areas on the south side of the building, looking over the river.”

Headley will start the design from a clean slate and fewer restrictions than he would have faced if Missoula College had been constructed on the University of Montana’s South Campus. Gone are campus regulations mandating a renaissance revival design and limitations on height.

While design work will likely take a year given the project’s size, Headley said, the initial phase calls for a four-story building with a basement. The project will be engineered with upward expansion in mind, as city code currently allows for eight stories.

“We’ll list what will be built in this first phase and define what would be built in a second or even third phase, so we can plan it on the site and incorporate it into the building design,” Headley said. “Missoula College is an enormously popular and successful program, and there’s no indication that will change.”

Headley expects the schematic work to wrap up by Jan. 15. At the same time, National Environmental Policy Act specialist Stephanie Lauer with JBR — a Missoula firm — will work through an environmental assessment with both the university’s and the city’s oversight.

The assessment will include a traffic study and a riparian management plan for the Clark Fork River. The Montana Department of Transportation also will be involved, given the potential impacts to East Broadway and Highway 200.

“At the end of that phase, around Jan. 15 or so, we’ll have an early building design and all the EA work done,” Headley said. “A building that big will take most of 2014 to develop. I’d expect the project to go to bid and ground to be broken in the latter part of 2014.”


In a recent memorandum, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency wrote that the new location for Missoula College “will incentivize private investment in the area.” In the letter, the agency noted the recent purchase of Eastgate Shopping Center by a private owner.

MRA also has identified the need to complete the “significant gap” in the city’s riverfront trail system. Long-term goals will look to attract new development to the area while beautifying what MRA promotes as a community gateway.

Headley is aware of the needs and the role Missoula College will play in setting a new tone for the city’s east side. For now, he envisions a structure similar in stature to the Journalism Building at UM, though the two structures may not bear many architectural similarities.

The Missoula College building will be designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. State regulations require the building to earn LEED Silver certifications at a minimum, though architects will strive for LEED Gold standards — one of the highest ratings possible.

“Glass will be very strategically placed, and in Montana that’s critical,” Headley said. “Our south side will be relatively glassy — the side facing the river, mainly because of the passive solar.”

The east and west ends of the building will have little glass, if any, while the north side — that facing East Broadway — will incorporate glass into the design over the need for solar gain.

“When we were designing for the South Campus, the Mountain Campus guidelines were in effect,” Headley said. “They have a very strong set of guidelines to compel architects to design something with a renaissance revival feel. Because this isn’t imbedded in the Mountain Campus, those guidelines will be lifted. This building will be much more contemporary.”


The reduced costs of the East Broadway location also may allow the project’s first phase to include the college’s Culinary Arts program — something that would not have occurred in early phases of construction on the South Campus.

But Tom Campbell, head of the culinary program at Missoula College, said that will be discussed over the coming weeks by a building committee appointed by university officials.

“I’m confident we’ll be moving over there, but in what capacity I don’t know,” Campbell said. “There will be discussions on what the culinary program looks like, and whether it’s a go.”

Headley said he will consider the culinary program in the building’s design. He said the potential is there to create an outdoor dining area with a view of the river, capitalizing on the culinary program’s success running a restaurant and catering service.

“The potential there is really to be quite beautiful, and it’ll be a nice space, even in winter,” Campbell said of possible outdoor dining.

Other academic needs will be taken into consideration by the building committee, and Headley said that public meetings will be set to review the design and other needs when the process reaches that phase.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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