Bank Forward buying lot across Fisher Ave. from CSC, looks to build in 2014.

    As city officials discussed at length Monday evening a multi-faceted and multi-phase approach to spur continued development to the north, northeast and east of Crookston Sports Center, word comes that to the south of the facility across Polk County Highway 11, Bank Forward has purchased the commercial lot from Bob Herkenhoff.

    "We looked at several spots around town for them, but they liked that area," CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth told the Times.

    Toby Kommer, chief financial officer for Bank Forward, told the Times that a 2014 groundbreaking is targeted for a full-service Bank Forward branch. Earlier this year, Bank Forward opened an Invest Forward branch next to the new Dollar Tree store on Crookston's north end, staffed by Bill Markovich and Beau Rauner.

    Kommer said Bank Forward signed a three-year lease at the location adjacent to Wal-Mart. At the end of the lease, he said the bank would determine what to do with the location. It could remain as a drive-up facility, he added.

    Kommer said Bank Forward is excited about building in Crookston, specifically, across from the sports center. "We view this area of the city as the future for the community and we would like to be a cornerstone of that future development," he said.

    Meanwhile, on the north side of the road, in addition to progress being made daily on the construction of Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, city officials want to make sure that if commercial developers express interest in building a hotel or retail center, or if someone wants to buy a lot to construct an apartment building or a house, the city has everything in place to make it happen.

    At a Public Works Committee meeting held after Monday's City Council meeting, a three-pronged approach was sort of mapped out, although there are many details to be hammered out and dollars to be crunched.

    Here's a rundown:

    • The committee gave the go-ahead to spend around $4,800 to have Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates design a plat of the land adjacent to the CSC on land the city owns. It's not the entire plat of the entire 100 acres or so that the city owns, but it's a substantial start, with commercial lots close to Highway 11, lots for a potential apartment building or two, and approximately 60 residential lots.

    "It's user-friendly and maintenance-friendly," Public Works Director Pat Kelly said of a concept drawing of the plat formulated by WSN engineer Rich Clauson. "It's pretty easy to develop in steps."

    Which makes it quite different from the concept drawing of the entire subdivision plat a few years ago, when the CSC was being built. That drawing, Kelly said, included lots of curved roads, cul de sacs, park/green spaces and very large lots. It was also too expensive and scared everyone off.

    Now, with utilities extended to the area in order to make Drafts a reality, the costs have been reduced. Financially speaking, Kelly said the latest plat concept makes more sense, too. "This just makes sense as the first plat for the first part of the CSC subdivision. Let's be realistic; you can talk about walking paths and long, winding things, but that stuff is very, very expensive," Kelly said. "This gives us something to show people. If we're getting to the point where we're going to have development, we have to plat it. You don't want to show someone basically 100 acres of blank space that they can't get their arms around."

    There will still be a significant piece of the city land un-platted after this initial plat, Kelly added. "But this part will last us a while," he said.

    He said he just doesn't see a big market in Crookston for large, fancy residential lots that will cost as much as $40,000 apiece.

    "Our costs for what we're looking at here, they're going to be about as small as they can be," Community Development Director Mike MacDonald interjected. "In future phases, we can incorporate parks and trail spaces, but this gives us what we need now, land that is ready for a variety of developments."

    • Kelly said that, if need be, the utilities that are making Drafts possible can be extended fairly easily to accommodate, for example, the construction of an apartment building or hotel.

    Kelly said he's working with Polk County officials on collaborating and potentially cost-sharing for the addition of a turn lane off Highway 11/Fisher Avenue into the main CSC entrance, and potentially a second turn lane further to the east as more development occurs. Federal funding remaining from an overlay project on Old Trunk Highway 75 would help cover the cost of that, as well as additional light poles Kelly has planned for the area. He said the county, as part of the overall scheme for the area, will possibly add a digital sign reminder for motorists entering from the east of the speed limit that will show their current speed.

    Federal funds, since its part of a U.S. Highway truck bypass, can also be utilized to help construct a frontage road that would go in front of Drafts and extend further to the east. The city would be in a position to leverage some dollars, Kelly explained, and as development agreements are drawn up for an apartment building or some other project, the city could look to recover some or all of the costs for things like the frontage road or utility extentions.

    • Although some council members are concerned about increased traffic on the Fisher Avenue corridor compromising safety, Kelly said that the most recent traffic study, which was conducted soon after the CSC opened, "doesn't even come close" to warranting the installation of traffic lights at the intersection of Fisher Ave. and Barrette Street or Fisher Ave. and North Broadway. It's possible the traffic numbers could warrant the installation of a four-way stop marked by stop signs, he added, but he's not event confident stop signs are warranted.

    "You can't just put something in because you want it; there are requirements," Kelly said, adding that traffic studies look at traffic, accident and pedestrian data.

    Council member Keith Mykleseth suggested possibly conducting another study, but Kelly said doing so costs around $15,000, and that adding stoplights could cost up to $200,000.

    "I just think this is something we need to keep pushing for, even if it takes a while. I think we're looking at an increasing safety hazard out there," Mykleseth said. "We're starting to do some things out there, and I think safety has to always be  on our radar."