The Crown Jewel Of Missoula Gentrification Will Break Ground Next Summer–ALL HAIL LORD CHECOTA!

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:


CONTACTS: Simone Holzer (202) 325-8775 or Michael Blain (240) 460-3250

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.

All hail Lord Checota!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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4 Responses to The Crown Jewel Of Missoula Gentrification Will Break Ground Next Summer–ALL HAIL LORD CHECOTA!

  1. dgf says:

    I wonder how those condos on the top floors of this hotel will help solve the affordable housing problem in Missoula. I doubt their price range will be anythings those hotel workers can afford. I recall at one time before Checota bought the Wilma there were affordable apartments there. How can one go wrong when you are backed by Landmark Healthcare Facilities of Wisconsin Checota’s family owned business worth $1.04 billion.

  2. Thank you for this ACCURATE reporting and commentary! But you left out A VERY IMPORTANT POINT: Engen moved the vote on this back from its originally scheduled time, i.e., next Monday evening, the regular Monday evening council meeting, to yesterday, Wednesday, at 2:15 p.m., set up so that Checota’s dog and pony show would run up to 3 PM when another agency needed the chambers. If you were there, you would have heard me blast Engen for several minutes about this before turning to many of the issues you raise here. Before the meeting began, I asked two councilpersons why the meeting was suddenly set for a time when working class could not attend. They did not know. One of them didn’t even know it was a council meeting, she thought it was a committee meeting (all councilpersons sit on all committees, but that’s another scam fit for a later discussion). So, I asked the city clerk, who responded “I don’t know, he (the Mayor) did that while I was out of town.”

    In his opening remarks, Engen said the reason for “the rush” was that “rumors begin and spread quickly in this town, and I thought we needed to get ahead of the rumors and get this underway” (near-verbatim, from my memory). In my citizen comment (of about five minutes length, the only one from a critic; two others simply told the council to “go for it”), I told Engen that his explanation about “getting ahead of rumors” was a euphemism for “we can’t let the ignorant unwashed public slow us down with their questions.”

    Well, when something as outrageous as stifling public comment occurs, you can bet that it’s for a reason, one that the players don’t want us to know. In today’s Missoulian (the story which read like an Engen/Checota Public Relations Press Release), reporter Neuman quoted Engen has having said that he was just hanging out with Checota, and mentioned how nice it would be if Missoula had an events center, and by golly, Checota offered to help!

    You bet.

    The hipster-trendy-neo-liberal council members, as usual, spouted platitudes and asked simplistic questions. The pre-prepared motion to pass the resolution was read from the sheet given to the councilpersons via email. By the way, at the bottom of the resolution, the date of adoption was recited as “October 21, 2019” — four days from now. It was prepared by staff for the regular Monday evening meeting.

    WHY did Engen suddenly move the meeting to yesterday at 2:15 pm? What “rumors” was he worried about? He certainly has generated more by that maneuver than he quelled.

    Back to substance: Checota equated a wage of $10 per hour with a “living wage.” Asked how many permanent jobs this would create, he first said 200, then 100, then maybe a few less than 100, many of which would be part-time. Part-time at $10 per hour. The councilwoman who asked about living wage and number of jobs did not even follow up.

    What about the TRIPLING of the number of automobiles the event center will produce twice each month? asked the councilwoman who chairs the Transportation Committee. Checota, with no evidence whatsoever, opined that it would have little impact because events would be held in the evening.

    Checota and wife are being handed a 75-year family monopoly on the booking and ticketing of all major cultural events in Missoula, cornering the market with three large venues, becoming oligarchs who will wield immense influence over city government for decades. This TIF project and another to the East bookend the historic downtown. A city staffer had the audacity to say twice that “general taxes in the city will not be impacted.” Well, these “urban renewal” projects have already TRIPLED the property taxes of local, iconic homegrown businesses in the historic downtown district, resulting in their rents being drastically raised by the landlords of those buildings, and some say they will have to close shop. When they vacate,and no one can afford to move in, you can expect the owners to sell the buildings at a discount…to Checota or someone like him. The empty historic buildings will be declared “blight,” and Checota or someone like him will “save the day” by kindly offering to demolish them and build another metropolitan monstrosity with luxury condos on top, subsidized with TIF.

    And Councilwoman Jones, Engen’s hand-picked successor who by then will have assumed the Throne, can pick up his mantra that she is going to “end homelessness in Missoula.” Probably at a party in one of the condos.

    — Kevin Hunt

    • wow, thank you for the comment. moving up the date is a very sketchy move. thank you so much for appearing on Wednesday to document all this, especially considering we don’t have the Indy anymore.

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