One taco, hold the triangle

| April 08, 2004
Taco John’s on 623 West Broadway sits on a tiny sliver of land along the Clark Fork River. Over the past two years, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency has been creating a development plan for properties along Orange, Broadway and the river—collectively called the Riverfront Triangle. Taco John’s, alive on its corner since 1973, has been included in the plan. The business co-owner, however, says the restaurant will likely bow out.

Bruce and Kim Doering, the owners of Taco John’s, like the triangle idea—“We are very pro-Riverfront Triangle,” says Bruce Doering—but for them, participating in the triangle poses a couple challenges. Part of the plan calls for a trail that would run straight through the restaurant’s kitchen, for instance. Doering keeps his humor about him—maybe folks can grab a taco on their way down the trail, he says. The plan wouldn’t require the Doerings to demolish their building in favor of a trail. However, if the Doerings ever chose to rebuild the restaurant, they would be required to accomodate the trail. Because their plot of land is narrow, this requirement would limit their use of the space. By not joining the plan, they hope to hold onto more options.

“We’ll have more flexibility in the future,” says Doering.

The vision for the triangle property, owned mainly by the city and St. Patrick Hospital, is of a mixed-use area that will have condominiums and eateries and commercial businesses, if the Council approves the plan in the next while.

“Don’t say months,” says MRA’s Chris Behan. He’s hoping the proposal will come to a vote on April 19.

Ideally, says Behan, the western-most corner of the triangle on which Taco John’s now sits would be open space, with a trail running through it, and the restaurant would be located elsewhere in the triangle. He will still try to talk the owners into joining, but Behan doesn’t blame the Doerings for resisting. Zoning issues are always intimidating, he says, and the Doerings have had a tough year, being the owners of the shuttered Marshall Mountain.

This summer, the Doerings plan to remodel. “I don’t know what would change our mind,” says Doering.

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