Local Ninth Judicial District Public Defenders Office will move into third floor

    The timeline for Jeff Evers’ redevelopment of the historic Fournet building in downtown Crookston that he bought around three years ago has officially accelerated, as a second tenant, the Crookston branch of the Ninth Judicial District Public Defenders Office, is poised to move into a renovated third floor sometime next winter.

    Third-floor renovations were initially to be part of a second phase of Evers’ plans. The first phase currently underway involves renovating the second floor, adding an elevator and restoring the skylights on the building’s roof. Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. would then become Evers’ second-floor tenant, relocating from its current headquarters across the street on North Broadway that the agency has deemed is no longer viable over the long-term.

    But it’s apparent to passers-by that renovations on the main floor of the Fournet are currently underway, as temporary office spaces for the Crookston office of the Ninth District Public Defenders Office are being added there because Kip Fontaine, manager of the public defenders office, says they need to be moved out of their current location at the Polk County Justice Center when their lease there expires on June 30.

    Evers’ financing package he secured through Bremer Bank, City of Crookston and CHEDA loans, a Tax-Increment Financing District and his own investment covers only the first phase. Asked by the Times how he’s able to accelerate demolition and construction efforts to include things originally included in future second and third phase, Evers said he increased his budget with his primary lender when it started to look like a third-floor tenant was going to emerge sooner rather than later.
    
Excited to be part of a ‘new era’ at the Fournet

    The Ninth Judicial District covers 18 counties in northwest Minnesota. Fontaine said he manages the Crookston and Thief River Falls public defenders offices, which covers nine of the 18 counties. Of those nine, the Crookston office covers Polk, Norman and Mahnomen counties. Moving to the third floor of the Fournet will be six full-time attorneys, office staff and a dispositional advisor/investigator. Fontaine said he also works with several part-time attorneys but their offices are elsewhere.

    “It’s about space,” Fontaine said of the primary reason behind the move. “It certainly has been convenience to be located at the justice center, but we’re just running out of room there.”

    Fontaine said he was one of several hundred people who toured the Fournet soon after Evers bought it as part of a weekend open house event a couple years ago, and he was immediately intrigued by the building’s architecture and its history, which at one time long ago included attorneys’ offices.

    “It’s going to be an exciting place for us, with the atrium and all of the glass, with almost floor-to-ceiling windows,” Fontaine said. “It’s exciting to be moving into a structure like that and continue the history of the building. We’re part of a new era there.”