Discussions on the old Cathedral, former Methodist Church and Lincoln School properties.

Continuing on with the topics covered at the Crookston City Council’s recent Strategic Planning Session held March 14…

OLD CATHEDRAL REHABILITATION

    The council discussed the old Cathedral rehabilitation at 2019’s strategic planning session and the topic brought more conversation again in 2020. The old Cathedral recently had some roof work done and work will start up again in April, says Prairie Skyline Foundation’s Kay Hegge. She told the council that the sacristy roofs were severely damaged, but have since been secured and closed up, and are now structurally sound. Hegge says they’re in the process of adding joints after having to extend the height of the pockets, too.

    Before Hegge’s arrival at the March meeting, Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority (CHEDA) Executive Director Craig Hoiseth said dollars have been expended and reminded the council that the city made the commitment to bring water and sewer to the building. With the PSF’s grant, the large part of that was securing the building, Hoiseth explained, and there is between $15,000-$18,000 left in the grant.

    CHEDA is the fiscal agent of the PSF’s Minnesota Historical Society grant for roof work for the old Cathedral and agreed to “assume administrative, programmatic, financial and legal responsibility for the purposes of the requirements of the funding organization,” said a January 2019 Times story.

    Ward 3 Council Member Clayton Briggs, who sits on the PSF board, said, while improvements have been made, the PSF will “definitely” need to have something in the building (once it’s completed) year-round like events or offices, or they “won’t make it on their own.” Ward 1 Council Member Jake Fee agreed saying the building could be “packed every weekend” and it “still won’t offset the costs.” Fee said it’s up to the PSF to think about the long term, but doesn’t know what they could do without a “huge” subsidy.

    Mayor Dale Stainbrook thought the old Cathedral would be “great” as a “ruin” if the structure was saved, adding later that the steeples could remain and having benches in place would be a way for visitors to escape the rain. Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson mentioned the idea of an amphitheater, but thought the city should “keep its distance” from the project saying “whatever goes, goes.”

    Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson, who was listening from the audience, interjected saying, as a professional driving around looking at a job in Crookston, he thought the old buildings were a “red flag”, adding, “those buildings don’t scream, ‘Come to Crookston’.”

FORMER METHODIST CHURCH

    The conversation then shifted to the former Methodist Church which sits on the same block as the old Cathedral on Ash Street and is subsequently owned by the PSF. Most of the council members agreed the Methodist Church is in “rough shape” with some saying it was an “eye sore” and has a flooded basement.  

    “I grew up in that church, but it’s time to come down,” added council member Fee, who also said, perhaps, the city needs to be more “aggressive” and address “rundown” buildings that don’t make Crookston “look good.”

    Hegge told the council, after she arrived, that she is working on a grant application and wants to involve the community on what to do with the (Methodist) church. She believes the “whole area could enhance tourism and number of people shopping downtown” with both the old Cathedral and former Methodist Church buildings functional.

    “If we plan to apply for the ‘Our Town’ federal grant for the old Cathedral and Methodist Church, we want to be on your radar for the 2022 bonding bill,” said Hegge.

    “Is there any gel here with your plans?” she asked the council.

    Fee said, for him, the Methodist Church doesn’t “mesh” with his thoughts and thought the PSF should concentrate on the old Cathedral, adding he thinks the Methodist Church is an eyesore and needs to come down.

    When asked by Mayor Stainbrook about the “basement full of water” at the Methodist Church, Hegge said they’ve since emptied it, figured out what the problem was, got the sump pumps going and still have items to get rid of so they can wash the walls. She said there was mold only in the basement and that the previous owners shut off power causing the sump pump not to work.

    At-Large Council Member Tom Vedbraaten asked Hegge if the PSF would be “better off” taking down the Methodist Church and using that money from selling the lot for the old Cathedral. Hegge noted that was a good point. Vedbraaten later commented saying it might be better to “save one than try to save two and neither of them get done.”

    Hegge later spoke on what the Methodist Church could be used for, should it be renovated, saying she envisions a space for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities and possibly the robotics team, plus training opportunities and space for helping agencies.

    “It’s a million dollar project just like the Cathedral,” she admitted.

    Stainbrook replied to Hegge saying the Methodist Church could be “fixed to pristine” and could “never cash flow.” He told the group the church needs to go and be torn down for future development opportunities.

    Briggs brought up the stained glass in the Methodist Church saying they could be worth “thousands of dollars” which could benefit the renovations of the old Cathedral. Hegge thought the cost of taking out the stained glass “never comes close” to the value of keeping them inside the building, adding that there would have to be a very specific buyer if they were to come out.

LINCOLN SCHOOL PROPERTY

    CHEDA’s Hoiseth told the council there’s a possibility of applying for a Brownfields grant while they discussed the former Lincoln School building, which most agreed had become an eyesore and a concern for the community. (Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields program “provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties,” says EPA’s website, “as a means to promote redevelopment and revitalize blighted communities.”)

    He said getting rid of the building will cost more than purchasing it, but the city could create four or five new lots. Hoiseth added that he’s been told by Public Works Director Pat Kelly that there is a lot of concrete underneath the school building to get rid of and interim City Administrator Angel Weasner said she had concerns about asbestos as well.

    Ward 3’s Briggs said the property is in his ward and he often has people calling him wanting something done with the property. He added that he fields complaints about sidewalk snow removal and kids have to “walk on icy roads in front of traffic” when they’re not taken care of. Briggs did compliment the city who has been taking care of snow removal in that area when they can.

    Hoiseth was told by Ward 1’s Fee to “work on it” and Weasner added that he should come back to the Ways & Means Committee with information.