Fergus Falls, Minnesota Thursday, January 11, 2007
Michigan facility transformed with incentives and vision, giving rise to a hopeful future for RTC
By Susan M.A. Larson
Like disciples telling the masses of the miracles they have witnessed, Economic Development Commission Director Harold Stanislawski and local businessman Rick Anderson told of the transformation of the Traverse City, Mich., Kirkbride campus Tuesday.
During a tour of the facility last month, Anderson and Stanislawski saw what is possible with development incentives and a vision. They presented a slide show of the tour to about 40 people at the library. Traverse City, they said, started out on a much rougher road.
The buildings were abandoned and unheated for 20 years. Roofs were not repaired, causing floors to buckle. Traverse City formed a commons board to take over renovation.
The campus was purchased by the city for $1 and sold to the Minervini Group in 2003, which is developing it. The Traverse City campus is on 64 acres, compared to Fergus Falls’ 114.
Renovations on the Michigan facility began about two years ago and now houses condominiums, stores, restaurants, offices and a school. The same thing is possible here, Anderson and Stanislawski said.
“It depends on the economic tools you have in your tool box, if we’re going to do here what they did there,” Stanislawski said. “Without incentives, it won’t happen. Special policies and programs will be needed to make it work.”
Traverse City created a renaissance zone for its Kirkbride. Developers are exempt from single business tax, state school tax, local property tax and the utility users tax for the first 13 years. Traverse City also secured two $1 million grants.
While great strides have been made in developing the Traverse City property, it will be another decade before it is complete.
“We toured it with hard hats and boots,” Anderson said. “Portions of it are still in bad condition ... The first thing they did was put a roof on to stabilize it.”
Slides featured the project through various stages, from untouched, to mid-project to completion. About 65 workers are working on it year-round, Stanislawski said.
“That’s what’s going to have to happen here,” Anderson said. “That’s economic development right there, when you can put 50 to 60 people on full-time.”
An audience member asked what a condo in the Traverse city facility cost. A 600 square-foot bungalow sold for about $65,000, Stanislawski said.
“I was impressed,” Steve Hoffarth, Fergus Falls resident said following the presentation. “Having seen some of the apartments at the Kaddatz and being impressed with those and now seeing this, — the possibilities are wonderful. If I had the need, I’d be glad to purchase one of the condos.”
“This is very exciting,” Julie Budke said. “I used to live in downtown Minneapolis and I loved living in a renovated building. It’s exciting to see old buildings have new flare. There’s just so much potential. It’s going to take a lot of talking and communication to do it , but I think it will happen.”
“I’m very confident (the nurses cottage) is going to be restored,” Anderson said. “(The developers) have a preservationist view of it.”
Hawthorne Development, Fargo, is interested in the nurses cottage for multi-unit housing/condominiums. Jeff Schlossman Investments, Fargo, is interested in the buildings formerly occupied by the Department of Human Services, the Fergus Falls School District, Early Childhood Family Education and Catholic Charities for use as office buildings. The city is set to take ownership of these buildings from the state for $1 next week. The developers will purchase them from the city.