Is Aaron Wagner Ruining Missoula?


Joe Nave

Missoulian picture

Millie Reynolds, Reporter

     Over the last weeks, the controversial plan for adding a new river-facing property on Missoula’s Hip Strip has exploded into a storm of rage. Missoula’s community does not want to see their city change. Replacing the Missoulian newspaper building with a $100 million modern apartment complex and shopping center doesn’t sit well with many. 

     After Aaron Wagner and Cole Bergquist posted their concept videos on Instagram, the response from locals was anything but satisfactory, and Wagner’s retaliation was disgraceful. Cammy, a Missoula high school student, said, “not only is the location inconvenient, but adding a complex that big is going to drive hundreds of thousands of new people to Missoula and completely change how we know our town.”

     Aaron Wager and Cole Bergquist plan to demolish the Missoulian newspaper building at 500 S. Higgins and develop it into a $100 million commercial building. Their plan includes a multi-story housing complex, a 200-car underground parking garage, retail stores, and restaurants facing the Clark Fork River. 

     Wagner posted the concept video of their plan on Instagram. The idea was seen as a great addition by some, but a way to destroy Missoula and change it from what others know. Many responses were demeaning and threatening toward Wagner, Berquist, and their families.

     Wagner told the Missoulian that he had received death threats and sexual threats to his wife and daughters. He had received personal messages from locals threatening to “watch out for some vigilante justice you f—,” as well as “we all hope you burn in h—, you piece of s—.” Although many Missoulians’ behavior was unacceptable, Wagner’s return wasn’t better.

     In an Instagram direct message, Wagner said, “I don’t respect communist pr—s telling me I don’t deserve to build amazing projects and employ hundreds of locals… if you can’t afford your s—, make yourself valuable instead of pointing at people like me and whining like a bi—- little victim.” Other heinous messages were sent and unacceptable. “I find it weird that someone who’s trying to add such a huge addition to Missoula’s culture would treat the local community with such disrespect,” said Braden, a senior at Hellgate Highschool.

     Days later, Wagner told the Missoulian he apologized for his actions. “I just want to apologize to all the people I offended. I was immature and childish in some of my responses. I know better and should have been sensitive to the concerns of locals.”

     Wager’s apology was respectable but not enough to make Missoulians trust him or accept what he built in their town.

     “This issue was approached with extreme immaturity,” said Liv, a freshman at Hellgate. If Missoulians want their voice to be heard, they shouldn’t send death threats and treat the investors with disrespect. That has no benefit besides making them look bad. If locals want their opinions to be heard, they should voice their views professionally and classy instead of retaliation on the same level as Wagner. 

     Cole Bergquist scheduled a planning meeting to allow the local community to be a part of their project and voice their ideas for the project. After Wagner’s offensive remarks, the meeting was canceled. It is claimed to be on hold, but no one is sure if it will happen. 

     The WGM said they would be taking a step back to reassess how the community will come together to support each other through this project. They claim Bergquist planned this meeting to get the opinions of local businesses and community members. They wanted to “bring the community into fold; not cast anyone aside.”