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Armory Square development moving forward

Armory1 / 2
Crews work on some remodeling in the basement of the Armory in downtown Park Rapids. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)2 / 2

Armory Square development is moving into Phase II.

RDG Planning and Design has been selected to work on a plan for the Armory. The same firm worked on the original downtown Park Rapids plan that was completed in 2008.

"In that plan the Armory was singled out as being unique in its size and proximity and should be developed," said Alan Zemek, owner of Echopoint Design and Development, LLC.

He began working toward development of Armory Square shortly after the original downtown plan was presented.

"We did our own concept design, our own research and looked at what RDG put together," Zemek said.

Before work could begin inside the Armory an environmental survey was required. A stormwater project was completed along with demolition removal, energy efficiency upgrades and handicapped accessibility projects.

"The major hurdles have been overcome and now we're working on how to utilize the space," he said.

Phase I of the project is nearing completion. The first tenant in the building is Summerhill on 2nd, a retail store.

Zemek said a Mexican restaurant will be moving into the facility later this spring. Details are being finalized, he said.

"Now the question becomes 'What is the best use for the rest of this facility?'" he said.

That's what the RDG plan will reveal.

"We're looking at what the best use is to make this a sustainable project," Zemek said. "How we make this work."

He would like to see Armory Square become a self-sustaining building with retail, restaurant, studios and classrooms, a gallery and a place for performing arts.

"I think there is a lot of potential to make this a destination, an attraction where people will come from out of town to spend time in downtown," Zemek said.

He thinks the space could be multi-use and include a theatrical area with staging and acoustics along with space for receptions or trade shows.

"The volume of space in here gives us lots of opportunities," he said.

The RDG plan should be completed by mid-June.

Zemek is confident that Armory Square will be a sustainable business venture.

"It's no longer a question of 'Will this happen?'" he said. "We've overcome the hurdles and now we need to define what we're doing."

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561