Hoiseth: If hurdles can be cleared, construction could commence next year

    When it comes to the big issues facing Crookston leaders, things like growing the tax base and population (or at least maintaining both) never fall too low on the to-do list of top priorities. The same goes with adding new jobs and workforce development, making downtown better and improving the overall quality of life in Crookston.

    Oh, and housing. Housing is another issue or a challenge that is never completely solved or resolved. A comprehensive housing student of the Crookston community from a few years ago was recently updated, and as a result of both much has been done on a variety of housing fronts in Crookston, from the market-rate The Meadows Apartments on Crookston’s northeast corner, to “workforce”-rate Agassiz Townhomes on North Broadway, to in-fill housing, to Bob Herkenhoff building his higher-end homes along Eickhof Boulevard, and the continued successes of CHEDA’s housing rehab program.

    So, as a result of all that, do Crookston leaders stand pat, or at least, as CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth put it at a brainstorming session this week “take their foot off the accelerator” when it comes to pursuing a variety of new housing options in the community?

    Well, while they probably don’t need to keep the pedal to the medal on housing, based on discussions at that two-hour strategy session and a meeting Hoiseth had Wednesday with JLG Architects in Grand Forks, Crookston leaders always need to be exploring a variety of housing options for Crookston residents and potential Crookston residents.

    JLG Architects helped come up with Crookston’s Downtown Master Plan, and in that plan was the construction of a downtown apartment complex/high-rise.

    At Tuesday’s session, Hoiseth alerted everyone in the room to the Wednesday meeting with JLG and invited any city council or CHEDA Board members to attend. Accompanied by Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier, on Wednesday said talks have been productive, but there are many things remaining on the to-do list before ground is broken on any kind of apartment building in downtown Crookston.

    Stressing he’s a bit limited in what he can offer as far as details at this point, Hoiseth said he initiated the conversation more than a year ago with a developer that Crookston leaders have a positive, ongoing relationship with. The talk centered on possible sites for the construction of a four or five-story multi-use building. The lower level would be a heated parking garage and the first floor would be designed for any number of uses, such as retail, a restaurant, community center or meeting spaces. The upper floors would be a mix of apartments of the one, two and three-bedroom variety.

    While the Downtown Master Plan and housing study suggested a downtown apartment development, Hoiseth said he’s in proceed-with-caution mode right now, recognizing that between The Meadows and Agassiz Townhomes, 71 rental units were added to the Crookston market. (The Meadows is fully occupied and there are still some units available at Agassiz Townhomes, which opened a few months ago.)

    “We need to be extremely sensitive to our existing property owners and landlords,” Hoiseth said. “But The Meadows has demonstrated a strong demand for newer, higher-end-with-amenities rental units.”

    Hoiseth acknowledged to being a bit surprised at the immediate popularity of The Meadows and the willingness of tenants to pay rents of up to $1,250 a month for a three-bedroom apartment. But is that market tapped out now? It’s an interesting question, Hoiseth said, noting that when he met recently with Dennis Egan, president/CEO of Epitome Energy that’s looking to build a soybean crush and biodiesel facility on Crookston’s south end and he asked Egan what Crookston could do beyond what it’s currently doing to make the plant a reality and help make Epitome Energy successful over the long term when the plant opens, Egan told him to build a second apartment complex just like The Meadows.

    As for a downtown apartment complex, Hoiseth said the developer he’s working with did a “fantastic job of evaluating various sites.” While he added that he’s not at liberty at this point to identify the preferred location, “Suffice it to say JLG did a terrific rendering of what the site might look like in or near downtown Crookston,” Hoiseth said.

    With many hurdles yet to be cleared, a plan is moving forward that includes a timeline with construction commencing in 2020, Hoiseth said, adding he anticipates presenting the “opportunity” to his board of directors sometime this summer.