A Closer Look At The Big Developer Who Wants To Save The Mountain For The Little People

by Travis Mateer

Will the city of Missoula eventually own Marshall Mountain?

That’s what “longtime Missoula developer” Rick Wishcamper hopes will happen after he blazed into the pending sale and blew it up for the Missouri buyers who are now suing for breach of contract (emphasis mine):

A Missouri doctor and his wife have sued the owners of Marshall Mountain in Missoula, alleging they breached a contract to sell the property.

In the civil suit filed in Missoula County District Court, Dr. Spencer Melby and his wife, Colette Melby, allege that Bruce and Kim Doering are trying to back out of a buy-sell agreement in order to accept a cash backup offer. The cash backup offer has been submitted by longtime Missoula developer Rick Wishcamper, who at one time owned The Wilma building downtown.

Wishcamper told the Missoulian he’s trying to buy the land in order to hold it long enough for the city to buy the property. He and his wife Rika want to keep it open for recreational use.

So, who is Rick Wishcamper?

As the previous owner of the Wilma, Wishcamper was involved in cancelling a pending sale of THAT Missoula asset years ago for reasons that were never fully disclosed. I think it’s worth revisiting that sale for a little context, especially the explanation from Wishcamper about why the sale was cancelled:

Wishcamper noted in February that commercial real estate deals can be volatile, but didn’t give a particular reason for the cancellation of the sale to Michael.

“These things happen,” Wishcamper said.

What appeared to have happened is that Wishcamper caved to community pressure that he probably didn’t expect to get as his business model was pivoting toward exploiting the need for affordable housing. In reading this article I was impressed with the foresight of Wishcamper’s pivot, considering this was all the way back in 2013. Here’s more from the article:

Rocky Mountain decided to put the theater up for sale last summer to focus exclusively on the real estate side of the business, specifically the development of multifamily housing complexes around the country.

But Wishcamper has said since putting the theater up for sale that any sales contract would include a provision of perpetual use to keep it functioning as a theater offering live entertainment, movies and other events.

On Tuesday, Wishcamper said going through the sales process reinforced for Rocky Mountain the need to keep the theater as a community asset.

I added the emphasis because I didn’t realize until doing this research that Wishcamper’s business, Wishrock, had gotten into the affordable housing game. Here is how Wishrock frames its “social impact“:

Wishrock specializes in the preservation of affordable housing, focusing almost all of its development activity on the acquisition and rehabilitation of existing affordable housing. By specializing on this one vital area of the affordable housing business, Wishrock has been able to develop a deep understanding of the complex financing tools and regulatory environment necessary for successful preservation and rehabilitation of older affordable housing apartment’s communities. This work is crucial for both meeting our country’s need for safe, affordable housing for low income citizens and for providing those citizens with access to empowerment services as the barriers to overcoming institutional poverty are becoming more and more challenging.

Does Rick Wishcamper want to be a housing developer or a social service provider offering EMPOWERMENT SERVICES to its low income residents?

Or, perhaps more accurately, is the claim of support services just a PR gimmick to create the veneer of positive social impacts while a shit-ton of money is being made?

Here is more about the programming offered to SOME low income Wishrock residents (emphasis, again, is mine):

Wishrock residents have access to programs that help them connect with jobs , daycare and education resources. These supportive services are not pre-determined or standard at all projects – the program for a given property is determined by the needs and potential partnerships in each community. Wishrock often provides full-time staff to assist residents and coordinate services, and we can apply for grants when needed to bring the right services to residents. Empowerment services provide opportunities for our residents to break the cycle of poverty and pursue their hopes and dreams (too often low income residents don’t believe they are entitled to hopes and dreams or don’t believe they are possible).

I’m sorry, but what the fuck is up with this parenthetical statement about low income residents not believing they are entitled to hopes and dreams? Sounds like some emotional manipulation is being deployed by deep-pocketed developers to distract from the main point of their business model: making money.

I was curious about Wishcamper’s provenance as a “Missoula” developer, so I did some digging and discovered that Rick Wishcamper has A LOT in common with current Wilma owner, Nick Checota. For example, they both arrived from other states (Nick from Wisconsin and Rick from Maine) and they BOTH have rich daddies named Joe.

And wouldn’t you know, Joe Wishcamper is all about GIVING BACK some of his wealth through the charitable scam known as DONOR-ADVISED FUNDS, something I wrote about two years ago when taking a look at Nick Checota’s charitable Missoula giving.

From the first link:

MaineCF: Why did you consider giving gifts of real estate instead of other assets?

Wishcamper: My wife and I had decided to make a commitment to charitable giving. We learned that creating a donor-advised fund at MaineCF and funding it with a large initial gift would allow us to take a charitable deduction for the full amount of the contribution in the year we made it. We would also gain the flexibility to direct grants to charities of our choice. We found this VERY APPEALING

I bolded and capitalized that last part because wealthy developers like Joe Wishcamper have become VERY BOLD in their efforts to use concepts like CHARITY in order to expand spheres of influence.

To highlight what I’m talking about, here’s the excerpt I used in my post from Investment News:

It’s all the rage in charitable giving — and it’s actually got some charities worried.

Donor-advised funds — money that grows tax-free in individual accounts — are reshaping the landscape of U.S. philanthropy. After creating their account, donors choose how it’s invested, and the money compounds until they decide where to dole it out. DAF assets mushroomed to more than $85 billion at the end of 2016 from $30 billion in 2010.

Not everyone thinks that’s good news. Critics say the approach may slow the flow of money directly into nonprofits that serve the needy on a daily basis. Moreover, it injects charitable affiliates created by for-profit financial players such as Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab deep into the big business of philanthropy — a boon for them and their clients, but, some worry, not so clear a win for the causes.

Yes, non-profits can worry and critics can criticize, but at the end of the day wealth gives ZERO FUCKS and just continues expanding its grip on the power and influence it controls.

I guess that leaves the little people of Missoula to pray for a benevolent developer like Rick Wishcamper to swoop in and protect the recreational activities you sacrificed making a decent living for.

Is it worth it, Missoula?

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Closer Look At The Big Developer Who Wants To Save The Mountain For The Little People

  1. Pingback: Amended Lawsuit Over Busted Sale Of Marshall Mountain Show Missouri Couple Faced A “Local” Nick/Rick Combo Punch | Reptile Dysfunction

  2. 100% spot on, Travis.

Leave a Reply