The University of Montana will soon have a much larger presence along Interstate 90 than the current green highway marker alerting motorists of the school’s Missoula location.

The university this week released the latest architectural design for Missoula College, including the building’s north face, or that fronting East Broadway and the interstate.

The design includes the “University of Montana” emblazoned across the building’s top, along with a glass façade welcoming students into the four-story college, located between MonTEC and SilverTip Apartments.

“We’ve very excited about a lot of things,” said Mark Headley with StudioForma architects in Bozeman. “We’re on track to finish by Christmas and probably bid the project in January.”

Headley said a contractor is now being sought and interviews are planned for July. The project will employ what Headley described as a general contractor-construction manager, a move that could expedite the project and save costs down the road.

Roughly eight contractors in Montana are capable of bonding a project the size of Missoula College, which rings in at $32 million. Headley expects them to be in place by August.

“You do get the benefit of them looking at the drawings through most of the design and working drawings,” he said. “They pick up a lot of things that would normally turn into a change order, so you have less of that. They become a partner on delivering the project as fast as possible.”

Headley said the decision to use a general contractor-construction manager will also help with cost estimations. Because they’ll have the drawings for months – not weeks as in some cases – the contractor will be more familiar with the project’s details.

A ceremonial ground breaking is planned for Aug. 22.

While the interview process moves forward, Headley said, work on the Clark Fork River Trail behind the college will soon serve as a blueprint for other projects anticipated along the river corridor.

“We’re trying to set the standard for what would happen in the future,” Headley said. “We’re working closely with the city on lighting and trails, and we hope it becomes the standard for development up and down the Clark Fork River.”

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

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