One catalyst comes in


When consultants George Crandall and Don Arambula unveiled their vision of Missoula’s downtown last month, the plan focused on the construction of eight “catalyst projects.” These building blocks include a new government center, the Riverfront Triangle and the realignment of Front Street. Finish these catalysts, the thinking goes, and the rest of the Downtown Master Plan should fall nicely into place.

In its quarterly report, the Montana Community Development Corporation (MCDC) mentions a loan to a boutique hotel condominium project at 139 E. Main Street—a spot also identified as a catalyst project. Rosalie Cates, executive director of the MCDC, won’t disclose the recipient or the quantity of the donation, but county records reveal that the manager of 139 E. Main Street is Michael C. Ellis. Ellis’ son is Matt, the owner of the Missoula Osprey, among other ventures.

Matt Ellis confirms that his father and local real estate developer Joe Easton are heading a group of investors who are backing the project, but beyond that, Ellis is reluctant to speak about specifics.

“This is a big enough project that I don’t want to get everybody excited about something then not deliver,” he says. “After the first of the year, we’ll have more concrete stuff but I don’t want to go into detail about anything before it’s been solidified.”

Ellis assures the public, however, that the investors are “a group of people that care about downtown.”

The Downtown Master Plan provides a possible blueprint of what may replace the parking lot that currently graces the lot adjacent to Macy’s. It projects a mixed-use condominium/hotel project with retail on the ground floor and self-contained parking. The project would also include a sky bridge connected to Macy’s, according to the consultant’s plan.

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