by William Skink
It’s official, with the announcement of Nick Checota as savior investor, development at the Riverfront Triangle is finally set to break ground next summer. I’m sure there are plenty of people in Missoula excited about this news. I think those people are suckers.
In the reporting on City Council’s vote today I don’t see any mention in Kidston’s piece about the public money that will be used for this hotel/civic-event center/private condo project, but in this article the amount the city expects to pony up for this project is 16.5 million dollars.
Missoula, how excited are you about all this? 16.5 million of your public money will go to developers instead of the general fund to create more service sector jobs and private real estate VRBO opportunities, which look mighty attractive to the west coast urban refugees fleeing inland from their unsustainable cities.
The first link may not have mentioned the publicly subsidized cost of this project, but it did quote a much larger project Nick Checota toured before staring deep into Mayor Engen’s eyes and sealing the deal. Here’s Checota:
Checota recently toured a similar project in Washington, D.C., dubbed The Wharf. That project, valued at $2 billion, also embraces the waterfront, similar to plans for the Missoula venue.
“It also has a lot of commercial, residential and hospitality space,” Checota said of The Wharf. “Ours is nowhere near $2 billion, but it’s a very similar use and there’s a lot of basics for us to learn from that development.”
How much is there really to learn about raiding public coffers for private gain? The learning curve is on we, the citizens, to understand how the financial engines of gentrification function.
And that Wharf project? You better believe they’re hitting the TIF pipe. Here’s a press release worth considering as Missoula gets ready to repeat this on a smaller, but no less offensive scale:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS: Simone Holzer (202) 325-8775 email@example.com or Michael Blain (240) 460-3250 firstname.lastname@example.org
The District of Columbia’s economic development efforts – including the enormous Wharf project – too often support creation of low-wage jobs with minimal benefits, because they do not link large public subsidies with requirements to create high-quality jobs, according to a new analysis by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. This means that DC is failing to use its substantial economic development investments to reduce the city’s large income gaps or to ensure that benefits of DC’s growing prosperity are shared widely.
The redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront is one of the largest real estate development projects in the history of the District. It is transforming an historic area of the city’s waterfront, while creating new retail, dining, entertainment and housing options within walking distance of the Mall.
Yet the project faces growing questions about the type of jobs it is actually creating, and who truly benefits from large taxpayer subsidies for such developments. The District approved $300 million in public subsidies for the Wharf project, including public land and cash subsidies through DC’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and PILOT economic development subsidy programs.
“Unfortunately, neither the developer nor the District’s economic development leaders took meaningful steps to ensure that the Wharf resulted in good-quality jobs or other benefits for DC residents,” said Ilana Boivie, author of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute analysis.
Before Nick Checota swooped in to save the day, there were Union efforts to get some concessions out of this project. Will Checota learn that the way to get this project done is to please investors and perpetually fuck over labor the way the city has been doing? I should also include the County, considering Missoula County will probably be getting sued for spying on public works union members.
Here’s an article from 2017 about the contentious relationship that has developed between labor and the city over this project:
There’s been some heated debate recently about how to proceed on one of the city of Missoula’s largest construction projects: The Hotel Fox,to be located downtown on the riverfront triangle.
“Right now we’re at loggerheads, as it were, on a few things including labor issues and also affordable housing,” said Missoula Area Central Labor Council President Mark Anderlik. “It has to do with the developers signing an agreement essentially remaining neutral and a voluntary recognition of the union if the workers decide they want a union.”
This would likely be the first neutrality agreement in Montana if it were drafted, the agreement would make the formation of employee unions at the new location much easier, and Anderlik says because public money was put into the project such an agreement should be signed to help benefit the public with higher paying jobs.
“The question remains on the the labor side: is this going to be a net-benefit to Missoula or is it going to be another bunch of low-wage jobs, which Missoula is already swimming in. We don’t need any more of those less-than-living-wage jobs in Missoula,” Anderlik said.
Well said, Mark.
I will admit, bringing on Lord Checota and rebranding this project is a brilliant move. Instead of a 160 million dollar convention center, Checota ties his music brand and access to a scaled down 100 million dollar civic-event center. Grafting this jewel of gentrification for King Engen’s crown onto the success of the Wilma/Top Hat/Kettlehouse Amphitheater will probably give this project Teflon armor.