With a second building site now in consideration, the University of Montana opened the doors for public comment on Thursday evening, looking to gather residents’ opinions on where to locate Missoula College.

The university’s South Campus remains the primary option, though university officials are willing to consider building on East Broadway – a site that offers its own pros and cons, along with a list of opponents and supporters.

“I’m fully aware any site location we decide upon is going to be controversial,” UM President Royce Engstrom told a crowd of 100 or more people. “No matter what decision we end up making, not everyone will agree.”

Engstrom said school officials are looking to meet five key requirements in placing the college. Proximity to UM is first among them, though aesthetics, transportation and community strengths also play a role, as does potential for expansion.

“Ten or 20 years from now, Missoula College may be 4,000 students or even more, perhaps,” Engstrom said. “We need that flexibility to expand.”

Advocates for Missoula’s Future, a grass-roots group that opposes building on the South Campus, showed up to the meeting in force. They were led by their attorney, Quentin Rhoades, who said he’s representing the group pro bono, as he himself lives near the South Campus.

Rhoades reaffirmed his group’s position that the university has no legal authority to build on the South Campus. He cited history stemming back to 1922, when an effort began to preserve the land for student recreation and donate it to the school.

“The regents have to manage the property donated to them for the specific purpose of the donation,” Rhoades said. “It’s our view that you don’t have the option of managing that quarter section of land outside the purpose of the donation.”

Other opponents lined up to voice their own opposition to building on the South Campus, including mayoral candidate Peggy Cain, who said she grew up golfing on the University Golf Course.

“We’re not talking about any old patch of land, we’re talking about a sacred patch of land,” Cain said. “Our forefathers thought it was so important for university students to have an area to recreate that they raised money themselves.”

Others, however, argued in favor of building the college on the South Campus, including City Councilor Alex Taft, who called the East Broadway concept – as presented Thursday night – an eyesore.

“This is not a beautiful campus – it’s a sea of parking,” Taft said of the East Broadway proposal. “As an urban planner, this is the kind of bad structures that were put in place in the 1950s and 1960s in cities.”

Taft said the South Campus location was selected after years of open discussions, community advisory groups and many meetings.

He was joined in his support of the South Campus by several others, including Nancy Wilson, a state legislator and director of ASUM Transportation.

“The South Campus we’re really excited to support if that’s one of the two spots,” said Wilson. “We have to reject East Broadway for many reasons.”

Others rejected the East Broadway site as well, citing aesthetics and traffic. Some supported the site, however, saying a nice “midrise” building would give visitors a good impression when pulling into Missoula, and serve as good advertising for the university.

No rendering of the building was presented Thursday, though architects mentioned a three- or four-story structure that could be expanded upwards in the future.

Engstrom told regents this week that once the university decides location, it will look to break ground next spring or early summer.

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

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(13) comments

Waltzing Matilda

So how about full disclosure. Alex Taft and Nancy Wilson are married. Of course Wilson would be in favor of the South Campus. She is backing the UM administration and her husband is just going along for the ride. Taft's claim of "years of open discussions, community advisory groups and many meetings" is an outright lie! One citizen that served on the South Campus Master Plan committee has stated publically that the committee was never given the opportunity to discuss the location of Missoula College and in fact when they tried to discuss the location, UM officials shut tht discussion down. The decision to build on the Souith Campus was made prior to any public meetings. Build the College at the Fort where it belongs and tell the truth UM!

D

Can someone please explain WHY the Missoula College can't go where that ugly two-block hole is on South Street near Ft. Missoula?

SeenClearly
SeenClearly

Because there is not adequate infrastructure at the Fort to support such a facility and it would unnecessarily increase traffic between UM and the Fort. It makes no sense to force students to drive, bus or pedal across town to avail themselves of the universities amenities and services.

Nikki's Niece

Despite claims to the contrary, Seen Clearly does not see clearly. There is already sufficient infrastructure to build part of the Missoula College at Fort Missoula, namely the industrial arts programs, which have been on that site for years. What infrastructure are they using that would not be available to a new building as well? The argument that older buildings out there would need to be replaced is a spurious argument; funding from the legislature is specifically intended to build a new Missoula College building. If more infrastructure is needed at the Fort, the University has already admitted that the golf course/ “South Campus” site also would need to develop access to utilities, sewer, etc. Observations that residents of the Fort Missoula area would object to a new college building are also spurious. Community Hospital and affiliated structures already characterize the area and the existing streets provide more potential for accommodating increased traffic. Despite these very real amenities, the UM administration would rather increase traffic and congestion in the residential areas near Mount Sentinel and the golf course, which are far narrower and confined, and sorely ill-equipped to handle any more. UM officials excuse this lack of imagination with the brush-off, “anywhere we build it people will complain.” The talented architects who are planning and proposing the new Missoula College buildings show far more initiative and imagination in 10 minutes than any administrator or city official has shown in all the years this planning has been underway. Let’s wipe off our glasses, take a lesson from them, and think big.

C_Cleveland

The main infrastructure that is a problem is that nearly every building past Big Sky High School is on well water and is using a septic system rather then a sewer. This would mean that to be able to support the number of bodies that would be attending a new college, there would have to be some massive changes to the lives of those who live in the target range area. Where as the South Campus and the suggested site off of East Broadway already have water and sewer near by, and these are the only sites they are considering at this time. No matter where it goes, the thing needs to get built.

In the concern with traffic, the majority of those who attend Missoula College would be coming down Reserve street and South ave. I don't know if anyone has gone through that intersection during mid-day, but it gets massively backed up and congested. Contrary to belief, that section of south is not able to be expanded due to property rights surrounding it. So the argument that UM should continue looking at this site is no longer valid and is no longer an option. I understand the concerns surrounding the "save the golf course" campaign, but instead of wasting time and energy on saying that they need to build at the fort, lets focus on the argument to place it in a location that the UM has the ability to build on.

Further more, I would like to raise the idea that instead of these forms, blog posts, and crying to the media. We as a community should call for the ability to vote. We say that the U needs to be a good neighbor, and listen to Missoula as to our concerns, and what we want. The ultimate test of this "good neighbor" would be to put this in the hands of Missoula and let us vote on where this will be placed. I feel this should be an excepting compromise to everyone, no matter where you may think it should be.

zena

Well said Nikki

Waltzing Matilda

@SeenClearly. You are not telling the truth. The Fort area has more than adequate infrastructure to build the new college. The Fort was the site originally chosen for the new COT. The Fort has 50 acres of bare fields that have not been developed into recreational space. The Fort area is more easilly accessable from the rural areas like the Bitterroot Valley and the Frenchtown area where a majority of students come from.

If you want to talk about unnecessarily increasing traffic, lets look at the South Campus location. This South Campus is right in the middle of an already crowded neighborhood. According to UM statistics, 80 percent of Missoula College Students also work a full time job and drive their vehicles to school every day. That means that over 2,000 vehicles are driven to Missoula College each day. Where do you suggest that they park? They certainly cannot park on the main campus as UM already has way less parking on the main campus than is needed.

According to UM statistics, a small percentage (less than 20%) of Missoula College Students also attend a class at UM, so if UM is building Missoula College in proximity to the main campus it is for a small minority of students.

Missoula College deserves its own campus with its own amenities and services at the Fort. Quit making false statements about the Fort location. .

BigMac

Key words quoted in the article,"student recreation"! If the land was donated for this use, why do non students feel it is their god given right to have exclusive use of this golf course? There are plenty of golf courses available in Missoula, many of which lose money. Support those and let the college expand!

zena

I am one of the advocates working to save that land. If you want to make it a park, fine but how many cities of our size are privaleged to have a 55 acre green zone. It used to be 160 acres before the U build the student housing around it. There are other alternatives, and we believe that Montana statute prohibits use of that land for anything else than what the citizens of Missoula, when they bought it for the then MSU, intended it to be.
. It is not about golf, it is about the university being a good neighbor,which it mostly has. the U and Missoula do have a symbiotic relationship. They need to uphold there end. The U will not thrive unless the town supports them. It has to be a 2 way street.

Peggy Cain (aka Zena)

Nikki's Niece

Why does Royce Engstrom continue to play these childish games? Everyone at the university is well aware that a decision has already been made. Why waste people’s time and energy? Why not just come out and state the obvious truth? A decision has been made and the Missoula College will be built on the golf course. Watching these games unfold, one cannot escape the conclusion that in addition to declining enrollment and the collapse of the university’s financial stability, the real casualty in all of this has been the honesty and integrity of the university leadership. These games should cease, and those playing them must recognize that their act is neither smart nor convincing, or even entertaining.

Payin'Taxes-Gettin'Hosed
Payin'Taxes-Gettin'Hosed

I couldn't agree more.

SuperGnar

Didn't I just read in the Missoulian that the University is experiencing a decline in enrollment. So why the need to expand?

MT_Mama

The university has a decline in enrollment. Missoula College, formerly the Vo-Tech, is actually experiencing increasing enrollment and is packed to the gills at its current location.

The old Fox Theater site/downtown would be a horrible place for the College. Too crowded, not enough parking, near all the bums under the Orange Street bridge. I know the city wants to sell that white elephant lot and Engen thought he found a sucker.

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