Hoiseth: County's $50K minimum bid is too steep.

When Polk County recently put the land formerly home to the now-demolished Professional Building on 7th Street up for auction, the minimum bid was $50,000.

City of Crookston and CHEDA officials thought that price was a bit steep, so they didn't bid. Another potential bidder didn't meet the minimum threshold, so the property remains in the county's hands.

CHEDA board members and city officials have previously expressed interest in the property, which could potentially be platted into approximately five residential lots. Hoiseth thinks it would be an ideal place to construct a handful of homes through CHEDA's continued partnership with Crookston High School's Construction Trades program, that has students building a home each year in collaboration with a local contractor, and then selling the home.

Hoiseth said he and City Administrator Tony Chladek are taking a "wait and see attitude" for now, in the hope that county officials potentially lower their minimum price. The land isn't in tax-forfeit status, so county board action would be required before any sale is approved, he added.

"I would think they would ultimately want to lower the price, but we don't know that for sure," Hoiseth said at Thursday's CHEDA board meeting. "We've communicated with the county; they know we remain very interested and that we view them as a very good partner."

CHEDA notes
• Hoiseth said the University of Minnesota Crookston, located immediately to the south of Valley Technology Park, which is home to CHEDA, is looking at putting a "community garden" on land immediately to the west of VTP. A donor has emerged to help make the project happen, he said.
UMC Chancellor Fred Wood will have the final say on the matter, Hoiseth said. "Everyone wants it to be done right if it's going to happen; the chancellor really wants it to be a showpiece, not with a bunch of weeds growing all over the place," Hoiseth explained. "It would grow foods for distribution to the larger community, and with our food bank and food shelf, there's a lot of need for food around here."
Fresh produce is the greatest need for the food bank and food shelf, he added.
"We're kind of in an ongoing discussion phase right now and we're kind of getting to the decision-making point," Hoiseth said.
Presumably, UMC Horticulture students would play a large role if the garden becomes a reality.

• A couple short years ago, city officials were considering the transfer of the money-losing VTP to the University of Minnesota. But then Hoiseth, just hired at the time, asked for some time to come up with a plan to modify occupancy practices and lease rates at the facility, as well as how fledgling businesses are incubated at VTP.
Council members gave him the time he wanted, and eventually endorsed his shift in strategy. As a result, VTP, which a couple years ago showed a $30,000 annual loss, is now turning a profit of around $20,000. "The building is on good footing, and we're incubating some folks with low-cost rent and helping them along," Hoiseth said.

• In another possible sign of the better days at VTP, Hoiseth said the parking lot is being expanded to accommodate the increased traffic, much of it created by the relocation of University of Minnesota Extension to the facility. Although he acknowledged it's been discussed for many years with no resulting action, Hoiseth said the erection of a VTP and Extension sign at the VTP entrance appears to finally be in the works. "It will make it easier to find GPS-wise, too," he said. "We want to better identify this location for potential future tenants, and visitors who come here looking for a variety of resources."