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New West Daily Roundup for Oct. 28, 2016

Today in New West news: Missoula’s proposed Riverfront Triangle development, RMP and Rio Tinto Kennecott reach emissions agreement, and an update on Chipotle.

According to the Missoulian, area developers presented a $150 million project for downtown Missoula, which would include a new grocery store (a Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s), a conference center, restaurants, retail, affordable housing, office space and high-end condominiums:

Barry Fisher, the project manager for the Riverfront Triangle redevelopment, also known as the Hotel Fox site, gave an update to the Missoula Community Forum committee on Thursday night.

A group of local developers – Hotel Fox Partners – are making good progress on plans to transform the area bounded by West Broadway, Orange Street and the Clark Fork River, which is currently a blighted assemblage of decaying buildings and parking lots. It’s a prime piece of real estate, and city officials and developers have been trying for years to better use the space and transform it into the western gateway to downtown. According to Fisher, the project is now closer to reality than ever. He said the developers should have a development agreement in place with the city as soon as next month, and site demolition and final designs could be finished by next year.

“We want to actually start construction next year,” Fisher said. “A lot of traction is being gathered with the project.”

The timeline for the entire project to be built, he said, is four to six years from now.

Fisher laid out the developer’s vision, saying they hope to attract a large anchor retail tenant such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, although those plans are far from final. The three-block space would also include a new roundabout and a pedestrian walking arcade, but there also would be between 800 and 1,000 new parking spaces on multiple levels, much of which would be public.

“A real goal for us is to utilize the river,” Fisher explained. “The arcade feature would be central to how we bring along activity to the hotel. We want to create an environment where people can work and live and where there is entertainment and restaurants. We are extending the downtown area into this and trying to make a western bookend for the city of Missoula.”

Fisher, who said he builds hotels all over the world, said the developers are going to hire world-renowned architects to create a beautiful master plan. The development would be one of the largest urban infill projects in Montana history, only behind the $250-million Sawmill District development happening across the river.

Over in Utah, according to Utah Business, the Utah Public Service Commission has announced a new contract between Rio Tinto Kennecott and Rocky Mountain Power, aimed at curbing emissions over time. Indeed, per the agreement, Rio Tinto Kennecott will close three of its coal burning units one year ahead of schedule—after negotiating another electricity contract through RMP. From Utah Business:

“This is an important step in the state’s mission to continue improving air quality along the Wasatch Front,” said Colin Nexhip, Rio Tinto Kennecott interim managing director. “Shutting down our coal units will eliminate more than 3,500 tons of particulate and precursor emissions emitted annually from these facilities.”

“This agreement helps to provide rate stability for our customers and improves the air we breathe,” said Cindy A. Crane, Rocky Mountain Power president and CEO. “This agreement benefits our customers and helps keep Utah’s economy growing.”

The contract took years of negotiations and substantial support was provided by Governor Gary Herbert and Senator Stuart Adams to lay the groundwork for a beneficial agreement that met the needs of both companies while benefitting Utah.

Finally, an interesting update regarding beleaguered fast-casual titan Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. The company, according to Reuters, is turning to a number of investment bankers and lawyers for assistance regarding a possible takeover against “activist investor” William Ackman. Ackman, of New York-based hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP, has a reputation for buying stakes in companies and using said stakes to dictate changes such as removing board members and selling off chunks of company. From Reuters:

In early September, Pershing Square said in a regulatory filing that it has a 9.9 percent stake in Chipotle, becoming its biggest shareholder after Fidelity Investments.

Chipotle is struggling to revive sales after a string of food borne illness outbreaks last year sent its shares tumbling. As a result, Chipotle on Tuesday posted another dismal quarterly earnings performance.

Executives have vowed to make the chain leaner and more efficient. They have laid out plans for long-overdue investments in digital ordering and payments, deeper cost cuts, and said they would pursue strategic alternatives for its 15-unit ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen chain.

Chipotle in September said it welcomed Pershing Square’s investment and appreciated its confidence in the company.

Since then, Pershing Square and Chipotle have met at least once and have had telephone conversations, two people familiar with the matter said. They declined to discuss what the two sides have said to each other.

People familiar with Ackman’s thinking have suggested that he believes Chipotle’s long-serving board is due for an overhaul, and that it needs to beef up its marketing, cost controls and information technology.

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