COUNCIL UPDATE: Big plans for The Wharf, housing near new schoolTwo big developments are seeking a little tax help from the city of Alexandria. One would renovate the former bar-restaurant, The Wharf, into Zorbaz on the Lake – a $1.7 million project. The other one calls to build two, three-story 63-unit apartment complexes on the east side of Knute Nelson’s Grand Arbor development along Pioneer Road in south Alexandria – a project that would add about $8 million worth of property value.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
Two big developments are seeking a little tax help from the city of Alexandria. One would renovate the former bar-restaurant, The Wharf, into Zorbaz on the Lake – a $1.7 million project.
The other one calls to build two, three-story 63-unit apartment complexes on the east side of Knute Nelson’s Grand Arbor development along Pioneer Road in south Alexandria – a project that would add about $8 million worth of property value.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the Alexandria City Council scheduled public hearings to discuss both developments.
THE WHARF REBORN?
The council approved the first step in the process of providing tax increment financing (TIF) to the developers of The Wharf renovation project, Dave Bistodeau and Tom Hanson. It set a public hearing for Monday, July 23 at 7:15 p.m. at City Hall.
The Wharf, located next to Bug-A-Boo Bay at 2710 North Nokomis, was gutted in a fire in August 2000 and has been closed ever since.
Hanson, founder of the Detroit Lakes-based Zorbaz chain of bar-restaraunts specializing in pizza and Mexican food, plans to purchase The Wharf building from Bistodeau and completely remodel the 4,400-square-foot-facility.
The project would start this July or August and be completed this winter. Hanson told the council he plans to hire 20 full-time workers and 20 part-timers. Their average starting wage would be between $10 and $12, plus tips.
TIF, which would freeze the property tax rate at the existing amount for 15 years, would be used to extend new infrastructure to the site, upgrade the access and renovate the building. The TIF would amount to an estimated $67,000 per year.
The Wharf building is completely gutted. About the only things left are the original studs and rafters. Some flooring has been removed and the building hasn’t been maintained.
With TIF, the developer will be able to repair a substandard structure in a growing commercial area, according to Jason Murray, director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Economic Development Commission.
The taxable market value of the property is expected to increase from $136,000 to about $400,000.
NEAR NEW SCHOOL
Another TIF request also moved forward at Tuesday’s meeting.
The council set a public hearing for Monday, August 27 at 7:15 p.m. to consider a housing TIF application from LBR Properties, represented by Randy Fischer of Alexandria and Stan Kirkof of Osakis.
The plan is to initially build two 63-unit apartment complexes on the east side of Knute Nelson’s Grand Arbor development along Pioneer Road in south Alexandria. LBR Properties has owned the land since 2007.
According to LBR, the units will be targeted toward young people entering the workforce, those who are seeking more choice and amenities in rental housing, and the middle-aged to senior population who are looking for maintenance-free living. The apartments range in size from 745 square feet (one bedroom, one bath) to 1,312 square feet (three bedrooms, two baths). Rents would range from $650 a month to $1,095.
Amenities for the development call for a community room, theater room, exercise facility, a boardwalk, outdoor activity areas, an outdoor basketball courts and an outdoor swimming pool. Units would have their own laundry facilities.
According to the proposed TIF agreement, 20 percent of the units, 14 apartments in each building, will be available to individuals with incomes that are 50 percent or less of the county’s median income.
Although the TIF agreement on Tuesday was limited to two buildings, LBR plans to build eight more in the area over the next 10 years that are similar in size – each one having 63 units with mostly one and two bedrooms.
In their TIF application, the developers noted the area, which includes a new high school, Housing and Redevelopment Authority townhomes, Grand Arbor and this new housing development, will attract retail and service type operations, such as a convenience store, bank, and professional medical services. LBR’s development would add roughly $4 million in new market value per apartment building, Murray said. The value of the property, which covers about 49 acres, would increase from $966,400 to nearly $9 million.
The estimated increment would be $100,445 per year over 13 years, totaling $2.24 million. TIF would be used to offset development costs.
Construction on the first two buildings is expected to start this July and be completed in April 2013.
See more council news in Wednesday’s issue.