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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • City ramping up efforts to purchase Downtown Square property

  • Meeting set up for Thursday with landowner.
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  •     Thursday is shaping up to be a potentially important day for Crookston's fledgling Downtown Square. With some members of the Crookston City Council a bit hesitant to endorse elaborate design and construction plans for the downtown destination because the city leases the land and doesn't own it, city officials Thursday afternoon will sit down with the owner to see if the city might be able to buy the land.
        The city has what is widely seen as a good deal on the 10-year lease, with eight years remaining, and language in the lease makes it fairly easy to extend it by 10 years when it expires. In addition, the city has the right to match any offers to purchase the property made by other parties.
        But, with designer Robert Gustafson coming up with some pretty cool drawings of a centerpiece structure, some council members are a little gun-shy about building something on land the city doesn't own.
        Thus, the scheduling of Thursday's meeting.
        "Maybe we buy it, trade for it, do a tax incentive...whatever it's going to take so we can become the owners of it," said At Large Council Member Wayne Melbye, a leader of the Downtown Square initiative. "I think that would trigger a lot for us, if people saw we were possibly going to buy it, it might change some attitudes on it."
        The property owners own the portions of Central High School that remain standing, and some of that building has been renovated into apartments.
        Although the council has set aside at least $75,000 for Downtown Square-related projects, no money has been earmarked for a potential purchase of the land.
        "We could be talking about a lot of money here," Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten said.
        Melbye stressed that the council would have ample opportunity to weigh in on any decisions related to buying the property, if buying it indeed becomes a realistic option.
        "Let's take our time and do it right," Mayor Dave Genereux added. "Maybe it'll be too expensive and we'll go back to the drawing board."
        "If we meet with her on Thursday and she says no, then that's that," Melbye said. "Then maybe we're just putting a tent on it."
    Engineering stuff
        The city Ways & Means Committee this week recommended council approval of a necessary "geotechnical report" requested by Gustafson. He's gotten one quote for $2,300 and is securing a second one. The report, which involves soil borings and the collection of other data, is important, since potential structures on the square would be built on the high school demolition site, he explained. "You may find out you can't build anything on this," Gustafson said.
    Page 2 of 2 -     He added that engineers at Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates, working pro bono, continue to review the centerpiece structure in order to provide more detailed material needs and cost estimates.

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