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Red Bridge Inn on schedule to reopen in Park Rapids

Red Bridge Inn (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
Bert Olson2 / 2

"I just love Park Rapids."

With that sentiment, Cavalier, N.D., businessman Bert Olson embarked on another venture in his adopted Minnesota town.

Olson recently purchased the Red Bridge Inn and hopes to have it operating as a bed and breakfast by sometime this summer.

Monday night the Park Rapids Planning Commission gave approval for the plan. The Conditional Use Permit now heads to the Park Rapids City Council for final approval.

The inn has been closed since 2010. It is in an area zoned for commercial use. A conditional use permit for the former bed and breakfast expired, so Olson had to apply for a new one.

City Planner Dan Walker said although the zoning, a C-1 district, wouldn't be the typical zone for a project of this nature, Walker said because the use will stay the same, he saw no need to rezone the area.

"It's reasonable to allow them to reopen that use," he told the commission.

Several conditions were attached to the awarding of the CUP, including that Olson obtain necessary permits for renovation, build a dumpster enclosure, remove a shed if it hinders parking, and allow the city to monitor the parking situation in case other arrangements are necessary.

Commission member Jeff May expressed concerns about parking.

Olson envisions seven guest rooms and a manager's apartment. Nine parking stalls would be allowed; seven exist.

"You'd have an awful hard time getting nine cars in there," May said doubtfully. "Maybe six cars."

But Olson said parking might be more his problem than the city's. He said he's explored other parking sites at neighboring businesses.

The building is considered an "existing nonconforming structure" that cannot be expanded without a variance.

Normally in a C-1 area, only 5 percent impervious surface would be allowed. The inn has 70 percent, grandfathered in.

Olson bought Sunny Shores Inc., a mobile home park on Fish Hook Lake, several years ago and turned it around. It is now a prime spot for out of state summer residents, right across the street from Headwaters Country Club.

Olson has also bought a home north of downtown Park Rapids.

He owns a car dealership in Cavalier and has several business ventures in North Dakota.

He said he'd probably leave the inn pink.

It's a color strongly associated with the Victorian design, he said. But major interior remodeling is taking place.

Ideally he'd like to reopen the place by June 1, but admitted remodeling projects, especially of older and neglected buildings, don't always follow a fixed schedule.

"We're just excited to get it open," he said.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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