What Is A Cushing Terrell And Why Is It Getting A Quarter Million In TIF Money?

by Travis Mateer

Back in February I wrote about the Scott Street affordable housing project and the casual fascism of public/private partnerships. In that post I discovered the virtue-signaling involvement of Mary Stranahan, the Patriot Millionaire behind the social impact fund known as Goodworks Ventures.

This affordable housing project is back in the news because ANOTHER entity I have never heard of is getting a quarter million in TIF money for designing some shit. From the link:

With an agreement notched for an attainable housing project planned off Scott Street, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency on Thursday approved $226,000 to fund the planning effort needed to put the development in motion.

The city purchased the 19-acre parcel in 2020 and approved an agreement with Ravara Development LLC in 2021 to develop the project.

The sales agreement with Ravara is contingent upon the planning process, material costs and the continued participation of the project’s primary investor, Goodworks Ventures.

“Once we’ve gotten the massing blocks put together and we understand what kind of form and function we’ll be doing, we’ll be drilling down into our spreadsheets even further to make sure the return profile is acceptable to the investor, and we’re able to move ahead in this environment with the cost of inputs being astronomical right now,” said Dawn McGee of Goodworks Ventures.

As proposed, roughly half of the 19-acre property will be developed into a mix of housing types, ranging from brownstones to courtyard apartments. The other half will be used to consolidate a number of city services, thus freeing up other city properties for future redevelopment.

Thursday’s approval contracts Cushing Terrell of Missoula to begin the design.

The emphasis is mine, including the name at the end of the quote, Cushing Terrell “of” Missoula. That little word “of” is a nice touch because it creates the impression of a little local design firm from Missoula. But is it?

Cushing Terrell tells its Montana origin story at its website like this:

Born of the big skies and lush mountainscapes of Montana, Cushing Terrell’s roots in the American West run deep. But since our founding in 1938, we’ve grown beyond the natural boundaries of the mountain region – outward, and with an upward trajectory reflective of a bright future. Characterized by the rising angles in our logo, we’re driven by the desire to forever improve.

We’re creative yet careful, accomplished yet modest, thoughtful yet fun. But we never forget the landscape upon which our firm was established, on a late summer day along the banks of the winding Boulder River. The natural beauty surrounding these founding moments continues to underscore and inspire our lives, work, and brand.

When you go check out CT’s projects you start getting an idea of the kind of money they are suckling from the Big Sky.

From the fancy images I can deduce that CT has been involved in the Washington-Grizzly Champion Center, the Willard School remodel (part of a multi-million dollar bond project in Missoula) and Stockman’s bank. That last project got the attention of a Chicago TIF expert back in 2019 because of the blatant self-dealing. From the link:

In March, the city of Missoula issued a $1.5 million bond to reimburse Stockman Bank for part of their almost $30 million construction project on Orange Street and East Broadway.

According to city documents, the bond was issued to pay for improvements such as “environmental remediation and demolition of vacant buildings on the property, burial of overhead power lines within the public right-of-way and construction of new curb, gutter, sidewalks, lighting and landscaping within the public right-of-way.”

Stockman Bank then purchased that bond, meaning along with reimbursement the city is also paying Stockman a 4% interest rate on that $1.5 million.

“There are a couple of things that are very unusual about that,” University of Illinois at Chicago professor Dr. David Merriman said. “The bank being the beneficiary of TIF funds and then also buying the bond is, in my experience, very unusual.”

The emphasis is mine because I want readers to understand how insane it is for a CHICAGO critic of TIF abuse to find something VERY UNUSUAL in how Missoula operates its Engen slush fund.

For a little context on Chicago’s long history of TIF corruption, here is a 2019 editorial from the Chicago Tribune.

For a multidisciplinary design firm like Cushing Terrell, a quarter million in public TIF loot is just chump change. That is why the article at the top of the post indicated the money was needed to “put the development into motion”. What that actually means is left to the readers imagination to flesh out.

Entities like Cushing Terrell, Blue Line Development and Goodworks Ventures are financially benefitting from Missoula’s housing crisis, and they are using any means available to enrich themselves, like voter-approved bonds, public TIF money and other complicated tax subsidies.

As long as they play the virtue-signaling PR game, and as long as Missoulians keep voting for corrupt politicians like John Engen, their opportunistic enrichment schemes under the manipulative auspices of do-gooding will continue.

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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