With the second and third floors almost leased, Fournet’s first floor becomes the focus

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    It’s been about five years since developer Jeff Evers purchased the historic Fournet building in downtown Crookston, and it’s been about four years since he launched his ambitious redevelopment plans for the building and requested City of Crookston and CHEDA assistance as part of his overall financial package.

    Fast forward to this week, when the CHEDA Board of Directors held its meeting in the Fournet’s third-floor “ballroom,” which will become a sort-of events center that can be booked for various activities and catered events, and it’s clear that much work remains to be done, but that a monumental amount of work has already been done.

    On the second and third floors, rings of offices looking out onto Broadway and Robert Street encircle an atrium from top to bottom and a stairway – which CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth jokingly said remind him of the Titanic – and in the coming days, panels covering the building’s highest reaches at the roof line will be removed so that the Fournet’s iconic skylights can be reinstalled. Evers says they should arrive next week. Prominent in every hallway and every office is a lot of drywall and a lot of duct work and sprinkler system infrastructure. The second floor is further along than the third.

    The primary tenant that provided necessary cash flow as part of Fournet’s financing package is Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc., which will relocate its headquarters from across the street once the renovation is complete and take up the entire second floor. Another major tenant, the State of Minnesota Public Defenders Office, has been working out of the first floor, where some quicker renovations were done early on, but once the third floor offices are finished they will move there.

    “The second and third floors are essentially full,” Evers said while giving CHEDA Board members, City Administrator Amy Finch, Mayor Dale Stainbrook and various city council members a tour this week.

    Which leaves the first floor, home for many years before Evers bought the building to businesses like Four Seasons Clothing and Munn’s Jewelers. Passers-by can’t help but notice the huge glass panels that have replaced all of the masonry and more traditional storefronts, and it’s in one of those spaces that Evers wrapped up his tour.

    While there, he was asked by the Times if any potential tenants had surfaced yet to “kick the tires” on possibly leasing first-floor space from him. They haven’t, yet, he said.

    But he has a vision, at least for a portion of the space, and it involves a restaurant-like setup with a kitchen that he said could be home to a variety of “pop-up”-like food vendors. Evers said it could be considered the next step up from a food truck. He noted Heroes Rise Coffee, who ended up opening a shop/store in Crookston after bringing their “Mobile Command Unit” coffee truck to downtown Crookston one day, and selling more coffee in a single day than they ever had before.

    A place to eat lunch or grab something after work could be especially valuable to Fournet tenants in the winter-time, Evers said, when people won’t want to be venturing out into the cold to grab a bite.

    “To have something for them right here, that could be big,” he said.

    Adding up City and CHEDA loans to Evers and a tax-increment financing district approved by the city council, Hoiseth said it adds up to approximately $608,000 in financing that filled the gap between what Evers’ primary lender was able to provide.

    “It’s a big lift from the community for a big project,” Hoiseth said. “But you’re starting to see the results.”

The CHEDA Board of Directors meets Tuesday in the third-floor ballroom of the Fournet building, which owner/developer Jeff Evers says will host various activities and catered events. The exposed ceiling beams will remain.
After Tuesday’s CHEDA Board meeting, held in the Fournet building’s third-floor ballroom, owner/developer Jeff Evers led everyone on a tour. Here, Evers, left, talks to the group in one of the first floor spaces being renovated. Left to right next to him are board member Leon Kremeier, city council member Kristie Jerde, City Administrator Amy Finch, City Finance Director Ryan Lindtwed, Mayor Dale Stainbrook (mostly obscured), and board member and city council member Steve Erickson.
Evers, second from right, after the meeting explains his plans for the space to board members and others in attendance.
Evers points to the panels in the ceiling, which will be replaced in the coming days by the building’s iconic skylights. Left to right are board member Paul Eickhof, Evers, Finch, Jerde, Lindtwed, and board and council members Tom Vedbraaten and Wayne Melbye.