We can probably recite some of the slogans or phrases by heart because they’ve been repeated so often over the years. You have to spend money to make money. You need to think outside the box. Or like Lee Iiacocca said when he ran Chrysler, you need to lead, follow, or get out of the way.
In other words, sometimes you have to be bold. You need to take on some risk, stick your neck out a bit, put some skin in the game, in order to improve your chance of achieving your objectives, of getting where you want to go.
That’s the thinking today after the CHEDA Board of Directors last week unanimously approved developer Jeff Evers’ request for a 20-year Tax Increment Financing Redevelopment District, which he needs if he’s going to achieve his goal of giving the big, beautiful Fournet Building in downtown Crookston a new lease on life.
It’s been an up and down journey for Evers and this building, perhaps the biggest anchor structure in all of downtown. Early bumps in the road in the form of various rejections by decision-makers of Evers’ various proposals had even the most optimistic people in town thinking his vision at the Fournet would never come into focus in the form of an actual redevelopment project.
But Evers didn’t give up, and neither did the decision-makers, to all of their credit.
Fast forward to last week’s CHEDA meeting. Prior to the meeting, the Times did some checking around and was left with the vibe that Evers’ request for the TIF district was going to face long odds in the conference room at Valley Technology Park. But then, in a pleasant surprise, everyone in the room seemed to realize that morning that if downtown is going to have a legitimate chance at a significant revival heading into the future, a building like the Fournet cannot be left to whither on the vine.
Not surprisingly, the unfortunate fate of the Palace/Wayne Hotel building, which once sat kitty-corner from the Fournet on that historic downtown block, was mentioned multiple times during the discussion. No one wants a repeat of that. And how do you avoid a repeat of that? You help a developer as much as you reasonably can when he’s willing to buy a huge building and put lots of money into giving it new life.
We hear a lot about the strong financial position the City of Crookston is in. We hear about stability and consistency in our City’s finances that maybe comparable, nearby cities like East Grand Forks or Thief River Falls don’t enjoy as much as we do. We hear about the City of Crookston’s almost zero debt.
Given all that and more, that’s why you approve the TIF district for the Fournet Building, and you don’t make Evers sweat in the process. Embrace the project, and if in a decade or so it’s become apparent that Evers’ plans aren’t planning out as he’d hoped, at least you tried to be a part of something special. And, who knows? Maybe in a decade, the Fournet will in fact be something special.