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Planning meeting for Missoulian building canceled

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Higgins Riverfront 2

A conceptual image of what might be built at the site of the Missoulian building.

A planning meeting for a proposed $100 million redevelopment of the Missoulian site has been canceled due to insulting comments made by one of the investors in the project.

However, it’s unclear if the canceled meeting means the project is delayed in any way. A local television station claimed the project is “on hold,” but the developers have not responded to request for comment.

WGM Group, the Missoula company hired by the developers to help plan and engineer the project, released a statement on Thursday afternoon.

“After learning of the deeply offensive messages a project investor posted last week on social media, we have decided to cancel that charrette and step back,” WGM Group said. “Now is not the time to review planning details. It’s time to reassess how the community comes together to support our neighbors through a community project.”

The company and developer Cole Bergquist had scheduled a “planning charrette” for Dec. 6 to gain insight on site design and function from Hip Strip property owners and neighborhood groups. The meeting was “designed to bring our community into the fold; not to cast anyone aside,” the company said.

Bergquist, along with investors Aaron Wagner and Jadon Wagner, purchased the building from Lee Enterprises in November. Shortly afterward, they posted a video on social media showing concept images that included high-rise condos, restaurants, retail shops and a plaza overlooking the river.

After locals voiced concerns about the project, Wagner responded with a series of extremely offensive threats and insults and later apologized for his comments. Wagner also said he was "taking a back seat" and letting Bergquist handle the project.

The Missoulian newspaper still occupies the office at 500 S. Higgins and plans to move to a new office in Missoula, probably in March. The cancellation of the planning meeting does not affect that timeline at all, and no demolition or construction was scheduled to happen until March anyway.

News of the planning meeting had been circulating on social media in Missoula, and it appeared that many people who are upset about the plans for the building were planning to come to voice their concerns.

Bergquist did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

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