The City of Grand Rapids experienced a record year for building construction activity in 2019.

Grand Rapids Community Development Director Rob Mattei presented a year-end report at the Nov. 12 regular meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council. As Mattei explained, building permit valuation through Nov. 1, 2019, reached $73.5 million - three times the 15-year average.

Mattei said construction of the two new elementary schools made it “a very big year for permitted value.” Of the $73.5 million, $54.29 million was governmental construction activity with the two schools and the armory remodel; $4.55 million was residential for 12 new single family homes as of Nov. 1; and $14.62 million was in commercial including new buildings for Paul Bunyan Communications (510 SE 21st Street) and Anytime Fitness/Rapid Nutrition (110 Golf Course Road) as well as remodels at Rapids Brewing, Sammy’s Pizza, Miskovich Dental Clinic and Anderson Glass.

Mattei gave updates on redevelopment project activity within the city. At the site of the former Sawmill Inn, the new subdivision Rebound Commercial Addition, demolition was completed by the developer Rebound Hospitality and platting of the property as well as design of the public infrastructure and site grading are nearing completion by Rebound’s engineers. Construction of the grading and public infrastructure was expected to commence this fall but may have to wait until spring given the fall frost, said Mattei. The new subdivision will extend 23rd Street SE from Highway 169. The new street, sanitary sewer and water will serve five commercial lots, one of which will be the location of a new Best Western Plus hotel, scheduled to break ground in the spring. The city secured a $100,000 grant from Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRR) for demolition and approved the use of Tax Increment Financing to offset the added site development costs for that project. Other redevelopment activity took place at the former K-Mart site where the owner, the Hartley Trust, demolished the structure allowing it to be marketed as a site. The Hartley Trust sold the north two acres which is now being developed for Anytime Fitness and Rapid Nutrition. The city secured a $58,700 development site infrastructure grant from IRRR for that project.

Further commercial redevelopment activity includes Block 19 - Rapids Brewing which Mattei said was a significant enhancement to a key site identified in the Downtown Redevelopment Master Plan.

The city was recently successful in an application to IRRR for a $350,000 development infrastructure grant to support North Homes in their planned establishment of a new 52-bed psychiatric rehabilitation treatment facility for youth and young adults on River Road. This project involves 65-80 new jobs with wages ranging from $32,240 - $75,000 annually.

At the former Ainsworth industrial site, Mattei explained that the city in continuing partnerships with IEDC, APEX and IRRR and the City of Cohasset to promote redevelopment. The city and GREDA are anticipating the need to assist the future developer of the site with the extension of infrastructure (sanitary sewer and water).

Housing activity this year included the plat of Great River Acres to be located in SW Grand Rapids off Golf Course Road and County Road 76. The Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority (GREDA) is marketing the area for 15 single family home sites and one 15-acre multi-family site for sale and development. GREDA has recently secured the first purchase and development agreement for the sale and development of a single family home that will be built next summer.

Soon after acquiring property from the school district at the site of the former Riverview Elementary School, the city entered into a purchase agreement with Itasca County HRA for the proposed development of a 38-unit apartment, an eight-plex and two five-plex condo-style rental units for a total of 56 affordable units. This development, described as Aurora Heights is being developed by DW Jones in conjunction with Itasca County HRA and Northland Counseling Center.

Excelsior, Minn., based developer Oppidan has proposed the development of a 118 unit senior housing development project on land owned by and located west of Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital. If developed, the project would create approximately 68 independent senior apartments along with 30 assisted living and 20 memory care units. Oppidan has requested TIF business assistance from the city for this $27 million project, which is in the review process.

Unique Opportunities LLC, a Fergus Falls, Minn., based multi-family housing developer has entered into a preliminary agreement with the city and GREDA for property located at the southwest corner of 21st Street SE and Seventh Avenue East (Airport Road). Unique is proposing to build a 48-unit apartment with 20% of the units being proposed as affordable and the remainder market value.

Mattei explained that if the three multi-family projects (Aurora Heights, Oppidan and Unique projects) advance, the city will reach a highpoint for annual residential development at 220 units.

During his report, Mattei also highlighted the Commercial Building Improvement Loan Program (CBID) and Small Cities Development Program (SCDP). Mattei explained that the Blandin Foundation has recently provided a $500,000 program related investment (PRI) to GREDA to ensure the CBID remains capitalized. This allows GREDA to draw funds from the foundation, as a loan, for use in providing CBID loans. The Blandin Foundation has also recently re-established a $1 million PRI with GREDA for the city’s Redevelopment Loan Fund which allows timely access to short-term bridge and gap financing for commercial acquisitions and activities that lead to redevelopment of blighted/substandard/underutilized commercial property.

In conclusion, Mattei reported that GREDA has been working with an economic development sub-consultant in the development of an updated economic development chapter to the city’s comprehensive plan. The Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee will be seeking additional public input on the draft update at a public meeting/open house scheduled for Dec. 3, 6-8 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Area Library.

In other business on Nov.12, the council:

• Proclaimed November General Aviation Appreciation Month recognizing that general aviation and the Grand Rapids/Itasca County Airport have an immense economic impact on the City of Grand Rapids; and general aviation not only supports Minnesota’s economy, it improves overall quality of life by supporting emergency medical and healthcare services, law enforcement, firefighting and disaster relief, and by transporting business travelers to their destinations quickly and safely.

• Proclaimed 2019 as the Centennial Celebration for the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary.

• Approved council minutes for Monday Oct. 28, 2019 work session and regular meetings.

• Approved verified claims for the period of Oct. 22 to Nov. 4, 2019 in the total amount of $694,042.

•Authorized the police department to sell one abandoned city-owned motor vehicle at the Minnesota DNR auction located in Grand Rapids.

• Entered into a Transportation Service Agreement with Minnesota Energy Resources for natural gas services at the IRA Civic Center.

• Approved an on-sale liquor license for TKMM, Inc., dba Sammy’s Pizza & Restaurant for 2019.

• Approved final payment for AP 2017-1, GA Apron Reconstruction in the amount of $189,252.33.

• Hired part-time seasonal warming house attendants.

• Approved the hiring of regular part-time employees at the Grand Rapids Park and Recreation Department and the IRA Civic Center with wage adjustments for current part-time employees.

•Approved a resolution authorizing an operating transfer from the Capital Project Fund - Arts & Culture Capital Projects to the General Fund in the amount of $2,385.

• Renewed the Group Vision Care Plan with Avesis.

• Approved changes in the wage schedule for part-time, seasonal and temporary employees effective Nov. 17, 2019.

• Approved continuation of general liability insurance through the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust for calendar year 2020 and waived the statutory liability to the extent of the coverage purchased.

• Adopted a resolution approving LG214 Premises Permit application for Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association.

• Approved the final payment for CP 2010-5, Mississippi Riverfront Pedestrian Bridge in the amount of $116,873.47 and balancing change order No. 6.

• Approved payment to Joseph Johnson and Janelle Perrizo in the amount of $48,536.50 for homeowners insurance escrow agreement.

• Approved Amendment No. 1 for Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant Contract No. LW27-01312.

• Approved the final plat for Rebound Commercial Addition.

• Approved the purchase of a 2020 Volvo loader equipped with a snowplow and grapple equipment from Nuss Truck for $256,810.

• Approved the purchase of a 2020 compact track loader, equipped with a bucket and snowplow from ASV for $45,729.62.

• Adopted a resolution designating City of Grand Rapids polling places for 2020 as follows: Precinct One at the Grand Rapids Area Library; Precinct Two and Three at the IRA Civic Center; and Precinct Four at Zion Lutheran Church.

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