Armory redevelopment to begin in 2011
Redevelopment of Armory Square will break ground by June 2011 thanks to a $300,000 grant.
Financing was secured through the support of Congressman Jim Oberstar, and Arlen Kangas, president of Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation. Oberstar and Kangas visited Park Rapids Monday to make the announcement.
"The armory is a particularly costly and difficult site to redevelop," said local developer Alan J. Zemek, managing partner for Echopoint Design & Development, LLC. "It has taken two years of planning, research and support by the local economic development commission, city officials, and state agencies just to deal with abatement of the severe environmental contamination on the site, including petroleum, asbestos, and lead paint."
Zemek described his plan to redevelop the armory as the most difficult project he has pursued.
"I believe this project is a model example of how public and private resources can create an effective synergy to solve very complicated and difficult community development problems," he said.
"Armory Square" will be redeveloped to become an integrated mixed use commercial and civic facility.
"We hope to restore the armory to what it once was, a center for community activities, education, arts, and cultural expression for the community of Park Rapids," Zemek said. "Although we are the primary developer for reuse of this historic site, this project has been and will continue to be very much a community based effort."
Oberstar also visited the new Park Rapids water well and the Main Avenue construction project. He helped secure funding for both projects.
After a tour of the armory, Oberstar said it reminded him of an archaeological dig, with "such potential."
He praised Park Rapids for working together to accomplish projects such as the Main Avenue reconstruction and revitalization.
"This is the greatest example of community leadership I've seen," Oberstar said.
The Park Rapids Armory, originally constructed in 1928, served the National Guard as an armory, training and maintenance facility for more than sixty years. An addition was added in 1941 as a Works Projects Administration project to house vehicles for a mechanized infantry unit.
While it was in operation the armory was also served the community as overflow classrooms for the bourgeoning middle school, hosted athletic competitions and a wide variety of community events. The armory was closed in 1992 as part of a statewide consolidation of National Guard units, and has remained vacant for the last 18 years.
Zemek says the redevelopment project will create 12-22 full time and seasonal jobs and contribute to the fulfillment of the 2008 Park Rapids' downtown revitalization plan.