60-acre land purchase from Herkenhoff coming into focus

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    It looks like CHEDA, the City of Crookston and potentially other partners are going to join in covering the estimated $375,000 cost to purchase 60 acres of land in Crookston’s northeast corner from developer Bob Herkenhoff.

    Herkenhoff, as part of various continued collaborations and deals made with the City of Crookston and CHEDA, is the person behind the popular Nature’s View Estates and its market-rate home lots, man-made ponds and mix of mid-sized and larger homes. As the next phase of the development continues to head east, and with Herkenhoff looking to at least somewhat hand the reins to someone else, the last remaining, big piece is his 60 acres of land that extends to City limits.

    It sounds like the going price as of now is $375,000, and at a CHEDA Board meeting Tuesday, the board endorsed a plan put forth by CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth and City Administrator Amy Finch to have CHEDA come up with the first one-third of the cost, $125,000, and get the money to Herkenhoff sometime likely in the spring. That’s the plan in play, to have the $375,000 paid in three installments over what’s expected to be three years, interest-free.

    The money would come from CHEDA’s Community Investment Fund, which was created around two years ago when the city council allocated more than its usual annual stipend to CHEDA, $350,000 to be exact, to be targeted at strategic investments involving child care, business incentives, housing and workforce training. Hoiseth said Tuesday that, to date, $50,000 of the $350,000 has been leveraged in boosting child care in Crookston, $100,000 has been leveraged to secure more USDA loan dollars to boost Crookston businesses. That leaves $200,000, and $125,000 of that total is going to go toward the purchase of the 60 acres from Herkenhoff.

    “This would be a way we could take some of those community investment dollars and apply them directly to housing in Crookston,” Hoiseth explained.

    Extending Crookston’s future new residential development opportunities to the east and in the process staying south of Fisher Avenue/Polk County Highway 11 would, at least unofficially, place previous plans to add residential, multi-family and potentially more commercial development on the north side of the highway, northeast of Crookston Sports Center, on the back-burner. The City already owns the 160 acres envisioned for that development, but drainage issues continue to persist each spring, and the seven-figure cost just to extend the necessary utilities to get things started has led decision-makers to shy away.

    Utility infrastructure is already in place to get things started south of Highway 11, on the 60 acres.

    While the City could potentially tap its general fund reserves or its Municipal Land and Buildings Fund to come up with the first $125,000 installment, utilizing the funds CHEDA has available is the preferred option, Finch said, because it will give her, City staff and the council more time to figure out the best way to help cover the remaining $250,000 cost for the 60 acres.

    “This would give us time to plan more and get to the finish line with some partners,” Finch said. “This is a good first step to get us going on this.”

    Both Finch and Hoiseth mentioned the possibility of one or more partners being involved, whether it’s through helping with the financing, helping to actually develop the land, or both.

    The CHEDA Board unanimously approved a motion to move ahead with the plan, figuring it would send a strong signal to the city council when they discuss the matter that CHEDA is on board and wanting to help the City cover the cost of buying the land.

    “I think it’s a good move for us,” Mayor Dale Stainbrook said, noting the various challenges in the way of developing the land around Crookston Sports Center. “Cost-wise, this is the route to go right now.”

    “We’ve worked with Bob over the years and he’s been a great partner. …He’s done a super job,” said council member and CHEDA Board member Steve Erickson. “We need to move on this in a timely fashion. (Bob) wants to kind of get out of it, so we need to follow up. The new houses coming up out there, it’s amazing…a great asset to Crookston.”

    Council member Wayne Melbye endorsed the move, too.

    “It’s a grand opportunity,” he said. “With what Bob has done out there, this is what folks want. He took a pretty big dive to do what he did out there, and we helped on that. But this is where folks want to be, not on the north side of the road.

    “Maybe we can sell that off for ag later and maybe help pay for some of this,” Melbye continued. “Are we going to be in competition with some of the developers? Yes, but these lots haven’t been given away, either.”