By Gail Leverson, MBA, EDFP - Senior Funding Specialist October 19, 2021
“What can we do to revitalize our town?” This is a common question posed by cities across the country. Although there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, there are many strategies to help revitalize communities. The City of Blackduck, in Northern Minnesota, is putting the wheels in motion on a thoughtful approach to new development on Main Street.
Three dilapidated buildings along Blackduck’s Main Street will soon be demolished to make way for future development. Two of the buildings sat empty for the better part of the last decade. City Administrator, Christina Regas, and the Blackduck Development Corporation (BDC) decided it was time to do something with the vacant properties. To attract new tenants to Main Street, considerable work would need to be done to redevelop the site, including city acquisition of the properties.
The city contacted Widseth to help figure out how to safely demolish the failing structures without harming adjacent buildings. Widseth’s Curt Meyer, PE, who is the city engineer for Blackduck, assembled a team to perform an assessment and create a set of demolition plans. But, before the first sledgehammer could be swung, the city needed to figure out how to fund the demolition project.
Widseth recommended the city pursue redevelopment funding through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The timing was great as the Demolition Loan Program is only open a couple times each year. In addition to helping the city during the application process, we also researched the tax values for the buildings slated for demolition and coordinated purchase agreements for the city. In the end, the funding request was successful.
Christina Regas said, “I always have a good time working with the Widseth team. The communication has been open, and a regular person can understand it.”
The city is planning to combine three long, narrow lots, into one piece of property. This strategy will allow a developer to take advantage of approximately 75 feet of storefront on Main Street, which means there will be plenty of room to design a flexible building footprint and possibly even some greenspace.
Owning a building is expensive and there is high demand for leased space in Blackduck. Most businesses need some type of physical space, even if employees are working remotely. A leasable, multi-tenant development could be very attractive, and help drive Blackduck’s revitalization efforts.
The demolition is scheduled to occur next spring. In the meantime, Christina said the city will market the renewed property to developers. The BDC and City of Blackduck have some ideas for the site’s re-use but are open to new businesses that will increase the city’s tax base and create new jobs.
If you’re exploring ideas for revitalization in your city, give us a call. Widseth’s team of architects, engineers, land surveyors, environmental scientists, and funding specialists will listen to your vision and help you create an actionable plan to get started.