It will be removed in order to meet increasing parking needs for apartment tenants

    The Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA) and the Prairie Skyline Foundation (PSF) have reached a deal that will have CHEDA purchasing, for $25,000, the old Crookston Paint & Glass building on Robert Street, which is currently home to the PSF Thrift Shop.    

    The building will eventually be removed so the area can become an off-street parking lot that CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth said is needed to meet expanded parking requirements downtown as more and more apartments in the upper levels of downtown buildings are being renovated and rented.   

    The money to buy the building will come from the $100,000 remaining from the the City of Crookston's increased investment in CHEDA that totaled $200,000. The first $100,000 was used to launch a housing rehabilitation program.   

    The transaction will benefit PSF as well, as the foundation seeks increased funding to leverage its grant proposal seeking Minnesota Legacy funds to restore the former Cathedral on Ash Street downtown.   

    Hoiseth said he realizes that demolishing old buildings and putting parking lots in their place isn't universally popular in the community. But, he stressed, parking continues to be a growing need downtown as developers, such as Northern Properties, continue to renovate dilapidated apartments on the upper levels of downtown buildings and rent them out to new tenants. The city has minimum parking requirements on the books, and only off-street parking slots count toward meeting the minimums.   

    "This is for downtown development, which we're witnessing," Hoiseth said. "And this process is much easier and less expensive than going through the condemnation process and/or forfeiture back to Polk County. We are trying to be proactive and not have the county get saddled with another problem."   

    Kay Hegge, PSF Board chair, said securing the $25,000 will only boost the Legacy grant proposal. "The grant would make the building weather-tight, safe and attractive," she said.   

    With the matching dollar deadline fast-approaching on June 27, Hegge said it would have been impossible for PSF to raise the money it will now get through the sale in that short of a timeframe.   

    If the grant is not awarded, Hegge said the $25,000 will remain pledged to the old Cathedral. (An architect's estimate to fully restore the historic structure is $1.11 million.)
Started last fall   

   Discussions on the possibilities initially commenced last fall with a meeting of people interested in the old Cathedral that was convened by City Administrator Shannon Stassen when he was executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.  Hoiseth was there, too. 

    "Everyone listened to the foundation's proposed reuse plan, an update on the condition of the Cathedral and the grant application in the works," Hegge recalled.    

    Separately, Tim and Jerry Persson, of Northern Properties, approached Hegge about purchasing the PSF Thrift Shop in order to demolish it to free up more parking. Tim Persson owns the Union Building next door and has renovated apartments there.   

    Later, Hegge said, the Perssons approached Hoiseth and the potential deal continued to come together.  "We checked with the Minnesota Historical Society, who are the contacts for historic preservation in Crookston’s Historic Commercial District," Hegge said. "With their blessing, PSF voted to sacrifice the thrift shop building, which used to house Crookston Paint & Glass, to benefit the larger historical sites, the Union, the Fournet building, the old Cathedral and downtown in general."   

    The building at 107-109 West Robert Street was gifted to PSF by the Edith Kohn family in 2006, Hegge said, and work began to make it useable as the thrift shop. "First, we installed a temporary support to the bowed east basement wall, and applied for a Minnesota Historical Society grant to put in a permanent support system," Hegge recalled. "Then the basement wall caved in when the contractor started work on it. The building inspector at that time ousted a renter, and a new design had to be created by an engineer. Finally the new block wall repair was finished, only to have the basement mildew due to lack of electricity and dehumidification. The plaster and wire lathe was falling off the front of the building and volunteers removed that to reveal the original brick and mortar which was loose and failing."         

    The Minnesota Historical Society required that the masonry on the east wall be repointed and not covered up by aluminum siding, she explained. "The last straw was the fact that our group didn’t make enough money in thrift shop sales to qualify for the loan portion of the Small Cities Development Program (SCDP) block grant, which could have made new storefronts and addressed the masonry problems," Hegge said.   

    Saving the old Cathedral has been fraught with problems as well, said Hegge, who has been involved for 11 years in the effort.  "It was the people that met last fall, which included UMC Chancellor Fred Wood, who wanted to be sure we knew that the old Cathedral is an icon of Crookston, that changed everything," she said. "Craig (Hoiseth) heard of our grant application, which will put new flat roofs on the sacristies, address leaks, and completely and attractively board up all the windows. We needed matching dollars to show the community of Crookston wants this to happen as well as Prairie Skyline Foundation."