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Project 30 years in the making

Star News

July 12, 2004

By Jake Muonio, Staff writer

It’s official.

The Elk River City Council and Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) approved a developer’s agreement for the downtown revitalization project Monday night.

The decision means 30 years of discussion on a downtown redevelopment will finally materialize into a project.

“Although there is still some work left to be done, we are excited to have reached this important final stage during which construction begins. This project is critical to our downtown and our community,” said Catherine Mehelich, Elk River director of economic development. “We have been working toward this goal of revitalization of our downtown for several years and by mid-to-late next year we hope to begin to see the fruits of that work.”

Both the council and HRA voted unanimously to enter into the development agreement with MetroPlains Development.

The city is financially assisting MetroPlains in several ways.

A tax increment financing (TIF) district has been created, which could result in as much at $2.3 million.

In addition to the TIF, the city will provide MetroPlains with three other forms of assistance.

•The Jackson Square land, which has an estimated value of about $500,000, is being written down to $1.

•The sewer hook up charge (SAC) has been waived, a $175,880 benefit.

•The water access charge (WAC) has also been waived, a $131,910 benefit.

The assistance can be recovered through inflation in the tax increment over the life of the district.

The city also has a “look back” provision in the agreement that could reduce the assistance to MetroPlains if the project is more profitable than projected.

The project time table remains the same as when MetroPlains laid out its plans this past November.

The developer intends to complete the acquisition of the Bluff Block properties by spring 2005.

The developer’s agreement leaves open the option of the city considering condemnation on one property in the Bluff Block.

Eminent domain was also approved by the council on the city-owned Jackson Block.

In spring 2005, the city will also begin construction on the King Avenue parking lot — which will be funded by MetroPlains. The $350,000 MetroPlains will put into the improvements will be reimbursed through tax increment financing.

The improvements include the removal of the building that previously housed Elk River Municipal Utilities and the closing of the north end of King Avenue.

By opening the new parking lot prior to construction on the other sites, city staff hopes to alleviate some of the pain felt by customers of the downtown businesses looking for parking spaces.

Construction on the Bluff and Jackson blocks will remove the parking in Jackson square, Nadeau’s Clothing Care and U.S. Bank from the downtown area.

Much of that is replaced through underground parking at the two sites, but that parking is reserved for employees of the businesses and tenants of the housing units being constructed.

All told, about 23,000 square feet of commercial space and about 100 housing units are being added to the downtown with the project.

By summer 2005, MetroPlains hopes to begin demolition of the buildings on the Bluff Block and environmental remediation. The U.S. Bank building will remain until fall 2005, when the bank moves to a new site near the intersection of Highway 169 and 197th Avenue.

The Jackson Block construction will also begin in summer 2005.

Stipulations added to the development agreement call for MetroPlains to submit a detailed plan outlining how the construction project will be staged and where construction employees will park.

The Bluff Block construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2005.

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