A $14 million project that will completely change the look of the heart of Alexandria's Broadway received a $350,000 boost this week.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced Tuesday, Oct. 8, that it has awarded the grant to help redevelop a 2.3-acre spot on Broadway and Third Avenue previously occupied by Blue Collar Bob's and Bello Cucina restaurant.
The money for the Alexandria Economic Development Authority will come from the state's Redevelopment Grant funds and go toward demolition and infrastructure improvements, led by developer GoodNeighbor Properties, LLC.
This site will be redeveloped to a four-story, mixed-use building offering 23,450 square feet of retail and professional space, 75 apartments and one level of underground parking.
The state said this project is anticipated to create 37 jobs and increase the tax base by about $11 million, generating approximately $209,847 more in taxes annually after the project is completed. Matching funds will be provided by tax increment financing and the developer.
Mike Weber, Alexandria's city planner, said the grant was "exciting news" and credited Nicole Fernholz, director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, for writing the grant application.
At one time, the project was expected to start in April, but it has encountered delays. Weber said that although there's been "no shovel in the sand yet," the developer has until Dec. 31, 2020 to have the building substantially complete under the terms of the tax increment financing agreement with the city. The developer could also file for an extension if needed.
One of the issues that led to delays is the 12 underground monitoring wells on the site, according to Rob Thompson with CI Construction in Alexandria, the construction manager for the project. Some of the wells have to be removed and relocated to meet Minnesota Pollution Control Agency standards before GoodNeighbor can close on the property.
If everything goes smoothly, demolition work will start in early to mid-November, Thompson said. A few other hurdles must be cleared before the actual construction can begin — vacating the alley behind the property, moving overhead electrical lines underground and relocating a CenterPoint Energy gas line, according to Thompson.
He said the gas line is the most critical factor. If CenterPoint isn't able to move the line fairly quickly, construction may not start until late winter or early spring.
Meanwhile, GoodNeighbor is continuing to secure tenants for the development. Thompson said a tentative agreement has been reached with a restaurant for the lower level and more information will be released when a deal is struck.
Thompson, who is also a partner with Good Neighbor Properties, said the project will not only change the look of Alexandria's Broadway but also benefit the downtown area.
"It will create a nice hub downtown with the Runestone Museum, the boat museum, Copper Trail Brewery and the bike trail," he said. "It will create a synergy for that end of town."
The Alexandria City Council approved GoodNeighbor's mixed-use planned unit development last December. The project includes a building footprint of 37,200 square feet.
The apartments range from studios to one- and two-bedroom units. An estimated 54 units would be designated as senior housing for those 55 and older.