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'Armory Square' proposal could have potential

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opinion Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

News that a local developer is interested in working with the city of Park Rapids to renovate the historic armory in downtown is exciting but we must proceed cautiously.

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As exciting as plans to create a music and arts cultural hub in downtown sounds, we must realize that people have tried to redevelop the armory before. Those attempts have been unsuccessful.

Developer Alan Zemek seems to be taking a realistic approach to this project and that's good to see. He gave a proposal to the Park Rapids City Council Tuesday night.

His vision is to create a community center that would include visual and performance art with an art gallery along with a commercial, civic operation. But he realizes it won't be easy.

He was quick to outline the deficiencies and obstacles faced with trying to redevelop the Armory.

Those include:

-Lack of off street parking;

-Inadequate access for the disabled;

-The presence of asbestos and other hazardous materials;

-No modern safety equipment, such as automatic fire sprinklers;

-The building is energy inefficient and would need complete modernization, including ventilation and air conditioning.

The cost is also prohibitive. He estimates a complete redevelopment would cost around $2.6 million, which exceeds the commercial potential.

His proposal is not to jump in alone, though.

He is hoping a coordinated effort with public and private resources could make the project viable.

This is smart. Collaboration with the city of Park Rapids is likely the only way a venture like this can work. Also, the arts and music community will need to be involved with the project and maybe help with fundraising efforts if such a project comes to fruition.

This project is in the very beginning stages and may take years to happen, if it ever does. We like Zemek's ideas and hope something can happen with this historic building.

Anything would be better than having it sit vacant as a storage warehouse.

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