UM picks East Broadway site for Missoula College

2013-10-03T08:00:00Z 2014-10-19T08:07:29Z UM picks East Broadway site for Missoula College

And then there was one.

After years of discussion and under threat of a lawsuit, the University of Montana on Wednesday said it will build Missoula College on East Broadway, putting to rest the debate over building on the South Campus.

UM President Royce Engstrom said the location, situated across the Clark Fork River from UM’s mountain campus, places Missoula College strongly in the public eye and will serve to promote the university as a whole.

“I believe East Broadway will give us a distinctive opportunity to make a bold statement about UM and the role two-year education plays in the Missoula community and western Montana,” Engstrom said.

UM had initially named the South Campus as a preferred location for the college. But in May, Engstrom said he was considering East Broadway as an alternative site.

The announcement was made the same month Advocates for Missoula’s Future threatened a lawsuit if the university went forward with plans to build on the South Campus.

The group’s lawyer, Quentin Rhoades, said he and his clients were satisfied with the university’s final decision to build on East Broadway.

“We were dead set against the South Campus idea for a variety of reasons,” said Rhoades. “We didn’t want to get into a lawsuit about it. We were hoping we were being persuasive with our argument for its legality. We’re sure happy with the results.”

The process of considering a site played out in doses over the past year, culminating last month when UM held two public scoping sessions on the issue of location, with East Broadway as the focus.

Support and opposition was expressed for each site. Student and community leaders came out in favor of the South Campus, while residents of several nearby neighborhoods urged otherwise.

Missoula Mayor Jon Engen and several City Council members had lobbied against building the college on East Broadway, hoping instead to preserve the seven-acre lot for student housing.

“East Broadway is not my favorite site (for the college),” Engen said. “But it turns out that I’m not the university president. Engstrom called me earlier to let me know his decision, and I appreciate that. I hope the site works for him, and I know they came to it after lots of consideration.”

Engen said he would continue looking for downtown sites suited for student housing. Building and occupying 1,000 units of new student housing in Missoula’s downtown core by December 2014 was a goal Engen and Engstrom made together last December.

“That student housing conversation has to continue,” Engen said. “I’m not going to let it go. I still think there are downtown locations that still make sense for that.”

Engstrom said the university and city will continue to work on the housing issue.

“We’re still very interested in the student housing issue,” said Engstrom. “We entered that Quality of Life Initiative sincerely. We’ll continue to work on the housing situation, though this particular location won’t be available for that.”


Engstrom has noted along the way that whichever site was selected for Missoula College would prove controversial and not everyone would be pleased.

He was happy, however, to put the debate to rest on Wednesday.

“I wanted to take the dialogue and hear all viewpoints,” Engstrom said. “Now we have a decision, and it’s time to move this project forward.”

The project’s timeline is still uncertain, though Engstrom said he’d like to see the project break ground at some point in 2014. To do that, he said, the university must complete and environmental assessment and secure an architect to begin working on design.

The project’s overall design, he said, should make a statement on behalf of Missoula College and the university. Placing it on East Broadway also gives architects more freedom with the design.

“The nice thing, by having it at East Broadway, it gives architects a little more flexibility,” Engstrom said. “The vision is to have a beautiful building that speaks loudly to the importance of higher education and two-year education in this community. It’ll take advantage of the setting it’s in.”

StudioFORMA architects this summer completed a feasibility study on the site and found no significant limitations to building along the banks of the Clark Fork River. Questions over parking were initially raised, though they have since been resolved.

To accommodate the 730 spaces needed for the college’s 2,100 students, the university negotiated a deal in securing a lease across Broadway on land owned by the railroad. Parking also is available on the building site, along with the MonTEC facility located next door.

“With this decision made, we’ll move forward as rapidly as we can while making good decisions to put the actual construction into motion,” he said. “We’ll be able to implement more fully the Missoula College mission to serve the educational workforce needs of this region while placing a state-of-the-art facility in a showcase location near the entrance to Missoula.”

Engstrom said that once ground is broken, construction would likely take two years.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(17) Comments

  1. JustUs4All
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    JustUs4All - October 05, 2013 11:24 am
    I think lots could be explained if the original deed for the golf course property would be released.
  2. truelimegreen
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    truelimegreen - October 04, 2013 11:47 am
    The timeline included with this article is incomplete in my opinion.

    The timeline for this piece begins in 2007. In a more comprehensive timeline one would go back to 2002 and 2004.

    On the website one can read some history regarding the Vo-Tech/COT/Missoula College location plans.

    Also, if one uses google (I typed in - " plans for building the college of technology in 2004 in missoula") one can find the 2004 UM Fort MIssoula Master Plan.

    In 2005 Missoula residents were treated to another round of turmoil by our government officials, this time by the UofM. UofM President George Dennison revealed plans for a retirement village to be placed on the golf course. The regents stepped in and put a stop to it.

    Additionally, as reported in an Independent article in March of 2012 a lot of money for this project has mysteriously gone missing.

    How the location plans for this project evolved from the Fort Missoula area to the golf course and then to the E. Broadway location is also a mystery for many Missoulians.

    I realize that it would take a more comprehensive article on the background of the decision just made by Engstrom - however, a more historic timeline would have benefitted the readers of this article.
  3. Leadfoot
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    Leadfoot - October 03, 2013 8:23 pm
    Only Engstrom and Obama can make a loss seem like a victory. He wanted to take away the golf course, I suppose because it was easy. There was no agreement on his part until the threat of a lawsuit would delay commencement of building. Then the funding would be in jeopardy. We buy up all of the mountains surrounding our beautiful city to keep the area "GREEN," but then want to wipe out a golf course. He didn't attend one of the best attended public input meetings. I really suspect that he didn't expect such a public outcry. Many of us attended BIG universities where one walks at least 11/2 miles to class, Summer and Winter. This is almost universal. "Inconvenient Location?" If you feel that way, buy up all of Missoula right now for future growth, because IF the University ever expands, there will be a need and the Fort WILL be the only location left. The University is important to our community, but it not so important that it can tread on others who want to keep Missoula open in it's beautiful mountainous bowl. I agree with sportscaster's feelings.
  4. JLSNS
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    JLSNS - October 03, 2013 2:59 pm
    Great choice, UM! This location is ripe for development, brings Missoula College students closer to the main campus, and allows for construction to begin in a timely manner. Kudos to Royce Engstrom for considering all the options, involving the community in the decision and making the choice that's best for UM. Can't wait to see the new Missoula College campus along the river!
  5. Alan H Johnson
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    Alan H Johnson - October 03, 2013 2:24 pm
    I am ok with the decision. The South Campus would have been best. But I can see avoiding the legal hassle in order to get some ground broken, bricks stacked etc. The building of the new college has been delayed too long. Let's get on with it. I hope consideration is give to it's physical connection to campus. If not a foot bridge connecting the College to the south river trail, then perhaps an improved foot and bike path along the north bank of the river from the College to the Van Buren footbridge.

    I am glad the fort wasn't chosen. Though never under serious consideration anyway, it was the absolute worst of the options proposed on this website. Just like those who enjoy the golf course area, the fort is also valuable open space for local people. And no one has yet turned it into a giant lawn for golfers. As someone keenly interested in preserving fort history, I am tired of those that think the fort site is just another vacant lot.
  6. leftwingistherightwing
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    leftwingistherightwing - October 03, 2013 8:08 am
    Well it looks like the whiny khaki wearers have gotten their way. Maybe we could spread the Missoula College out a little farther. We could put the new campus in Clinton. A terrible choice made solely to satisfy a group of whiners who have ZERO plans of even attending the school. A real losing situation for Missoula.
  7. lakeguy406
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    lakeguy406 - October 03, 2013 7:31 am
    Thank you Mr. Rhoades
  8. Buckshot66
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    Buckshot66 - October 03, 2013 7:20 am
    Sometimes the best answers are with the students (people actually using the facility). The Fort location would have been a disaster. Some classes take place at the COT and some classes take place at the University Campus. Yet some of those credits are not transferable to the University if you choose transfer. This is a really stupid system and needs to be better thought out and implemented. Getting back and forth from the Fort Location to the U campus was never going to work and would have further isolated and challenged the COT staff and students as well university staff that are teaching the COT students. This is simply logistics and flow. Use the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) works.
  9. Pistol
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    Pistol - October 03, 2013 6:24 am
    Well stated sportscaster! Best result of this decision is Engstrom just took another step that the Board of Regents can see that is not in the best interest of the university. This ground would better serve as student housing. Close to main campus, biking and walking distance. More customers for businesses on East Broadway, and downtown. The fort area has most room for building and parking, and of course saves the golf course. The UM is struggling! Almost 10% decrease in enrollment, donations to foundation down, still possible lawsuits over previous Engstrom decisions. Now this!
  10. truelimegreen
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    truelimegreen - October 03, 2013 3:58 am
    I am filled with trepidation at this decision. That the fort property was not fully considered by Engstrom and other UM officials ia a tragedy.

    The infrastruction is just not there for this gigantic project. The room for expansion is just not there at the Broadway site.

    The hiring of Engstrom needs to be an example for all future hires for the position of president of the UofM. The university must scrutinize the top leadership position more carefully so we do not get more of these tragic decisions.
  11. wondering
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    wondering - October 02, 2013 9:54 pm
    This had to be done now. Getting that money from Legislature was difficult. Move now or risk problems down the road. Get it built. Western Montana needs this project.
  12. zena
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    zena - October 02, 2013 9:30 pm
    Missoula wins.

    This was about saving a beautiful piece of land, and honoring those who spent money
    to buy if for the University. It was certainly not a "frivolous" law suit. I want my granddaughter to be able so see that land with her children. Now many more can enjoy the beauty of that land.
    Peggy Cain(aka Zena)
    member of Advocates for Missoulas Future
    Candidate for Mayor of Missoula
  13. montanamuralist
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    montanamuralist - October 02, 2013 5:48 pm
    Good, is that the parking area students use now? Another idiotic decision by a man that should be removed from the role as President of the University. What now? You will get them to park at the old school and take one of your buses to class? Bad bad decision.
  14. sportscaster
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    sportscaster - October 02, 2013 5:35 pm
    Once this site was brought forth as an option, on the heels of a threatened lawsuit over the golf course site, there should have been no doubt that this "decision" was coming. One can only assume that this administration used the interim time to build its case for East Broadway and that it would come out with some flowery statements about the reasons for choosing it. Two things have become apparent about the current UM administration: making a decision in the face of any level of controversy is difficult, at best; and once a decision is made, it will have more than questionable merit. The golf course and the West Campus sites were the best options of the three, but turning tail and heading out to the Fort might have been perceived as a sign of weakness, and facing up to a frivolous lawsuit based on a document that has already been compromised by building two different student housing projects might have been perceived as wasting time and money. It should be obvious to all that this administration has shown not just signs of weakness, but outright weakness, in the face of varying degrees of outside pressure numerous times already. We can only expect more of the same. - Bill Schwanke
  15. Federalis
    Report Abuse
    Federalis - October 02, 2013 4:39 pm
    Congratulations to Commissioner Chrisitan, President Engstrom and UM on their selection of the East Broadway site for the Missoula College Campus! In this cynical age, its highly gratifying that UM is willing to listen to its neighbors and work with the community. It's a victory for good government for which we Montanans ought to be proud. ~ Quentin Rhoades
  16. Nikki's Niece
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    Nikki's Niece - October 02, 2013 3:38 pm
    I express my deep gratitude to the Advocates for Missoula’s future, their attorney Quentin Rhoades, and all the courageous UM faculty, staff, students, and Missoula community members who insisted that the public had a voice in the future of a public institution. Their tireless efforts and dedication forced the UM administration to abandon the idea of building on the golf course, where a new Missoula College would have further congested the University district and permanently altered its character. The threat of a lawsuit and the campaign organized by the Advocates and their UM supporters also convinced the board of regents and the governor that alternative sites had to be found. Martin Kidston might not like to hear it, but he has no choice but to admit that the people he tried to ignore all these months saved the golf course and had a direct impact on the decision-making process.
  17. doc
    Report Abuse
    doc - October 02, 2013 2:52 pm
    Amazing 180 from his previous, dug in, position for the golf course location.
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