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Skyview project developer drops plan for water tower

By Nick Longworth

For the time being, the old Park Rapids water tower – located half a block south of Highway 34 and a couple blocks west of Highway 71 – will remain a forfeited property, owned by the state, but maintained by Hubbard County.

An article ran last October about a man named Jeff Coleman who approached the Park Rapids City Council with an entrepreneurial idea.

Coleman wanted to purchase the old tower and renovate it into an observation tower, gift shop, lounge and catering venue known as “Skyview.”

Once Skyview became regionally and nationally known for its aesthetics and unique design, Coleman said he wanted to sell Skyview, with the City of Park Rapids becoming the eventual owners.

In the upper section there would be a wide corridor all the way around the outside of the entire structure for viewing with stationary viewing telescopes positioned around, Coleman said. There would also be a small area for snacks and drinks near the central core; this upper area could be used for weddings, conferences and celebrations of any sort that would require space for up to 350 people.

The lower section would be 2,500 square feet and would accommodate a small theater, rest rooms and the entrance to the elevator, all within the tower itself. There would also be a sizable gift shop which could sell mementos of the tower and also highlight local shops by having small sections displaying each interested vendor’s signature items, Coleman said.

Coleman (a resident of Tucson, Ariz. most of the year) was going to finish his business plan over the winter months, secure initial monetary investors and lay groundwork for structural testing of the building’s integrity in order for plans to be set in motion this past spring.

It is now mid-June and the water tower is still untouched.

When asked for a follow-up meeting, Coleman said that, “It is clear the town fathers don’t like the concept.”

He said that after reaching out to all of the Park Rapids City Council members, he received only one reaction – that it “seemed unrealistic.”

Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Director David Collins said the plan seemed challenging.

“We’ve spent a lot of time with Jeff trying to help him put together a business plan. Everyone loves the concept, but unfortunately it’s just not reality,” Collins said. “He has shown a lot of passion and has a great vision. However, the demographics, cost and cash flow all appear challenging.”

Admittedly, Coleman has used questionable tactics in his quest to get his project underway, including offering to buy the water tower for $1 and have the county hire and pay for an engineer to do structural testing. This cost would then be reimbursed once Skyview became profitable.

“It was my first attempt to see what the playing field was. From the response I received, I realized that there would be no help from the county or city,” Coleman said.

With no financial backing, solid business plan, or equity himself – Coleman is essentially reduced to a man with an idea, and a lot of “sweat equity.”

“No, I have no money as of yet. But with the numbers I’ve come up with I feel that investors would see it as a profitable project,” he said.

He said he had contractors look at the water tower to receive estimates, along with building inspectors and business owners.

Collins said the city still needs to see more before they’re ready to “see the view from Skyview.”

“I haven’t seen any plan or financing to make this a reality,” Collins said. “I don’t have a blank checkbook to write checks for projects like that, and I don’t know of anybody who does.”

Nick Longworth
A graduate from St. Cloud State University, Nick photographs and writes a variety of stories for nearly every section of The Park Rapids Enterprise. His duties also include section layouts and online content submission.
(218) 732-3364