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Armory discussions continue

Armory Square

By Anna Erickson

The Park Rapids Finance Committee met Thursday afternoon to see a more detailed proposal for the sale of Armory Square before deciding on possible city ownership.

Councilman Dave Konshok is on the finance committee and said the main issues the council wanted to clear up were the current price of the building and the cost of a basic level of operation.

The total cost developer Alan Zemek is asking for is $2.65 million.

The source of the funding would come from possible state bonding funds ($2.3 million) and developer financing ($350,000). The $350,000 would be to finish renovations in parts of the Armory.

He said the Armory project would be complete at that point and have no debt. The city would get all of its money back, he said.

The $2.65 million would go to pay several loans outstanding.

The council met in its role as the Economic Development Authority last week for a special meeting about Armory Square.

Aaron Chirpich, Development Director with Headwaters Regional Development Commission, presented the request on behalf of Armory Square.

He proposed that the city pass a resolution approving a redevelopment plan for Armory Square.

The resolution asks the city to take a broad acceptance of the plan as a “general model for such development.” It also says that city staff would be authorized to work to pursue funding from the state and that the agreement is conditioned on a completed agreement, loan approvals and state bonding.

Legislators are talking about including the project in the bonding bill but the Armory would need to be publicly owned in order to receive state funding.

Chirpich had correspondence with Senate Tax Committee administrator Donovan Hurd, who said that “the session is moving extremely fast and we feel this year is our best opportunity to get this done. Chances like this do not come very often. It is my understanding that the hold up is coming from the negotiations with the building. The longer it takes to resolve that issue keeps lowering our chances of getting this project done.”

Some details of the project were reviewed at the finance meeting, including the proposed gallery space in the basement and a catering kitchen.

Paul Dove, representing the Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council, is in favor of the project moving forward and said the city would just be taking a step toward a final project with the resolution.

Konshok and councilmember Rod Nordberg, also on the Finance Committee, asked if Zemek would consider selling the Armory without including the retail and restaurant space.

He said he would but it would leave the city with a building without a solid revenue stream.

Councilmembers last week were concerned about taxpayers being hit if the project failed. They expressed their concern:

“I don’t feel comfortable putting taxpayers on the hook,” said Mayor Pat Mikesh.

“I couldn’t agree more,” councilwoman Erika Randall said.

However, Mikesh said last week he would be concerned with backing out after receiving state funding. It might look unfavorable for future funding, he said.

The Finance Committee will bring the information reviewed Thursday to the Tuesday, April 1 Economic Development Authority meeting where the resolution will likely be voted on. The meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Park Rapids Area Library.

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