On Thursday, the board of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency approved a plan for the development of a $150 million project to transform the Riverfront Triangle in downtown Missoula at the site of the old Fox Theater.

The plan would bring a 200 room hotel with 10,000 square feet of meeting space and a conference center of about 20,000 square feet. The overall Riverfront Triangle development is an approximately $150 million venture.  The hotel, conference center and associated parking is estimated at around $40 million.

MRA Assistant Director Chris Behan could barely conceal his excitement when he relayed the news to KGVO as he was walking home from work in the rain and slush on Thursday evening.

"The Fox site itself would be about a 400 space parking structure, a large conference center with a gross square footage of about 39,000 square feet, and there would be a 200 room hotel above that," Behan said.

How will the project affect the average Missoula taxpayer? Behan explains.

"This will be paid for in part by the revenue from the parking structures that will be built," he began. "Also by the new taxes that will be paid by the developer of the hotel and conference center, so the average taxpayer isn't going to see anything on their tax bill. so it's a win-win situation for everybody. We'll get a regional-class conference center for events that cannot be here now. Things like the state teachers convention, the League of Cities and Towns can't meet here because there just isn't enough room."

Behan said the economic impact of the completed project would be impressive.

"It will be a huge, huge impact," he said. "We're thinking on the order of about $14 million dollars of impact to the community per year, just from the conference center and hotel."

Behan said the agreement should be before the Missoula City Council in a few weeks, after which work will begin on other agreements related to the project.

"As far as turning dirt, we could be looking at 2018," he said. "I'd love to be wrong and have it earlier, but that would be my guess."

The full scope of the project is on the city's website.