The University of Montana on Thursday said it will consider an alternative site on East Broadway for a new Missoula College, though officials said the South Campus location isn’t off the table.
Peggy Kuhr, UM’s vice president of integrated communications, said college and state officials will conduct a feasibility study on seven acres of university property located on East Broadway adjacent to the Montana Technology Enterprise Center.
The property sits across the Clark Fork River from the main campus. Kuhr said its proximity to UM makes it an attractive location.
“Part of the appeal is similar to the South Campus,” Kuhr said of the location. “It’s in close proximity to the mountain campus, it’s on an existing bus line, and there’s a Park and Ride facility there with 242 spots. It’s fully owned university property.”
The 2013 Legislature appropriated $29 million to fund construction of Missoula College, but left location up to the Board of Regents and university officials.
UM President Royce Engstrom said the East Broadway site includes space for a new building and adequate parking, along with service by existing bus routes and connectivity to infrastructure such as water, sewer and power.
“All along, the university has worked to involve the public in considering the best options for a new Missoula College building that will best serve the community and our students,” Engstrom said. “As we move forward, consideration of both the South Campus location and the East Broadway location will proceed.”
A group opposed to locating Missoula College on the South Campus threatened earlier this month to file a lawsuit if the project went forward.
Members of the group, Advocates for Missoula’s Future, have been firm in their opposition to the plan, citing concerns over losing the University Golf Course and open space.
Members of the group couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday evening.
The South Campus site has won the approval of the Board of Regents and it continues as a possible location for the project, Kuhr said.
She added that Engstrom and Clayton Christian, the state’s commissioner of higher education, have discussed the potential of the East Broadway site in meeting the project’s needs now that funding has been approved.
“It’s one of those pieces of property that has come up in conversations,” Kuhr said. “Whichever site is selected, there’s interest in moving forward as quickly as possible.
“The go-ahead doesn’t mean the shovel is going in the ground immediately, but if we can move something ahead that allows a future generation of Missoula College students to have what they need, and sooner than later, that would be a good thing.”