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Armory Square receives loan for improvements

The Armory project has been steadily progressing as funding becomes available. Next up - a Mexican restaurant. Interested citizens packed the auditorium last weekend for a performance by the Northern Light Opera Company, coming away with rave reviews. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Armory Square's auditorium will undergo minor improvements so it is ready to host the reception for the 2013 Governor's Fishing Opener.

The Park Rapids City Council on Tuesday approved a request from Armory Square Management Corp. for a $100,000 loan from the revolving loan fund.

The loan will help finance minor improvements to the auditorium space to make it compliant for public use. Although the interior will remain unfinished, it will have adequate lighting, a required fire sprinkler system, restrooms and functional stairways and doors.

Alan Zemek updated the council on the Armory's progress to date.

Phase I of the project is complete with Summerhill on 2nd, a clothing store, up and running.

"The Mexican restaurant is a done deal," he said. "The lease is signed, it could open by November."

He asked the council for support in completing some of the Phase II work, which will allow for more events to be held in the auditorium.

A week ago, a performance of George and Ira Gershwin's parody of the 1930s presidential elections, "Of Thee I Sing," was held in the auditorium.

"We're fire rated for 300 people with no sprinklers," Zemek said.

About 250 people came to the show, he said. With the cast and a few ushers the auditorium was nearly at capacity. By adding sprinklers and some other basic upgrades, the auditorium will be ready for wider use by the community, he said.

The $100,000 loan is a short-term kick start, Zemek said.

A loan application is pending with the United States Department of Agriculture but that could take a while to come through, he said. This loan will allow him to start on the project now.

"Working through the USDA is not an insignificant hurdle," Zemek said.

The loan committee recommended approving the $100,000 loan.

"The request continues to align with the city's objective for the RLF 'to encourage successful redevelopment in the city's priority development sites,'" the committee stated.

The loan term is for 24 months at a 1 percent fixed rate. The 24 month term is to provide time for the proposed refinance from the USDA to be approved and funded. In the event it doesn't materialize in that time frame, a request for an extension can be made.

"This project is no longer just smoke and mirrors," Zemek said.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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