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TIF District approved for Armory project

A new Tax Increment Financing District is planned for the Armory. The tax incentives could help make redevelopment more of a possibility for the currently vacant building. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

A new Tax Increment Financing District for the Armory in downtown Park Rapids received overwhelming support from the community.

Local developer Alan Zemek asked the city to consider designating a redevelopment Tax Increment Financing District for the Armory due to the unique challenges associated with the building. A public hearing was held Tuesday.

Zemek has been acquiring grants to research the building and determine whether it is feasible to redevelop.

"There's still a substantial challenge there," he said previously. "The heating system is completely gone, you'd go broke if you tried to put that boiler back into service, the building needs a lot of upgrades for health and public safety and fire safety."

Several people attended Tuesday's public hearing to address the Park Rapids City Council about the TIF District. All comments were favorable.

Ted Thielen, representing industries of Park Rapids, said he is in favor of the TIF district.

"It's been sitting vacant for 18 years," he said. "He's got a tank in there that needs to be removed."

The ultimate goal is to have the building hold retail and food venues and be used for civic activities.

A Department of Employment and Economic Development grant provided funds to investigate contamination.

The investigation found asbestos insulation around the old heating system pipes, mercury dust from coal, lead paint, lead dust from the old shooting range, possible petroleum contamination in the ground water and benzene gas in the soil.

The building also experienced substantial water damage when the roof failed many years ago and wasn't fixed. The building hasn't been heated in many years so there is freeze-thaw damage.

A licensed abatement contractor will be removing all the material.

The Downtown Business Association also expressed support for the TIF District.

Lu Ann Hurd-Lof, an employee of the Downtown Business Association, spoke to the council.

"He's a very responsible developer and it would be a wonderful asset to our downtown," she said.

David Collins, Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission executive director, said the proposed Armory development fits with the overall downtown plan.

The TIF district will provide a tax incentive for the Armory if the site is eventually developed.

Zemek has said previously that he thinks a coordinated effort with public and private resources could make the project viable.

The council approved the TIF District plan Tuesday.

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