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Missoulian building sells, developers announce plans

Missoulian Sign
Posted at 4:14 PM, Nov 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-26 18:44:58-05

MISSOULA — The Hip Strip is home to some of Missoula's favorite stores and shops, but over the past year, the face of this iconic street has changed.

Bathing Beauties Beads no longer calls the corner of Fourth and Higgins home while the owner of Carlo's One Night Stand announced he's soon hanging up his hat after decades of serving the community. And just weeks ago, Hob Nob Cafe, known for its breakfast and coffee, closed its doors.

But now, new developments for the Hip Strip are again raising eyebrows along the Clark Fork River.

Developers Cole Berquist and Aaron Wagner confirmed on social media this week they purchased the Missoulian building in what came as a shocking announcement to the Missoula community.

The developers told MTN News on the phone Friday they do plan to demolish the building but are still working out all of the details for what they plan to do with the location.

The Missoulian — the local newspaper — has been printing out of Helena since March, and the building has been for sale since last year.

"The plans for the building, obviously that will be demolished at some point," said Aaron Wagner.

The Missoula City Council approved a rezoning request for the property in early October by a 9-to-1 vote.

"I think it's impossible as an elected official to not see the sale of the building with our local paper and have a great degree of sadness about that," Missoula City Council member Bryan von Lossberg said at the time.

The river facing property is deemed premier real estate on the Hip Strip.

Public comment is closed, according to the city's website, so the developers are free to move forward with their plans. The sale of the building went through last week, for an undisclosed amount.

Wagner told MTN News, "We're gonna bring a bunch of new retail to the area right there, riverfront restaurants, retail shopping, and then hopefully some apartment complexes and condos."

"Nothing is set in stone yet, but our vision includes: housing ("for rent" and "for sale"), retail shops along Higgins ave, river-facing restaurants, open space near the river, and substantial parking. We are also considering office and co-working space," Berquist wrote on Facebook and Instagram Tuesday.

Berquist is also spearheading development at The Reed luxury condos on Fourth Street.

"The tax revenue that a project of this magnitude will drive to the city and will be able to help fund the low-income housing crisis in Missoula," Wagner said. "This will be a major contributing factor and will produce a lot of jobs for the local community."

Comments on social media have been both in support and critical of the announcement. As of Friday afternoon, a change.org petition also has more than 2,400 signatures in opposition to the project.