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Local developer seeks cleanup grant for Park Rapids Armory

The vacant Park Rapids Armory will need to be inspected for environmental hazards before moving ahead on a rehabilitation proposal. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

The next step in rehabilitating "Armory Square" in Park Rapids is applying for matching funds through a contamination cleanup grant program.

Local developer Alan Zemek asked the Park Rapids City Council to help him with the application. The Department of Employment and Economic Development requires that the city be the applicant even though Zemek would pay for the local match.

He first presented his idea to rehabilitate the Armory into a community center at a July city council meeting.

Zemek has identified five must-do tasks before coming to a decision of whether or not there is a viable business model. These tasks include: A zoning amend- ment; handicapped accessibility; remediating or abating environmental hazards; code updates for fire, health and safety; and modernizing mechanical/climate control systems.

The cost of the grant is 75 percent match by DEED and 25 percent paid by the developer. The application needs to be submitted by Nov. 1. Zemek said he expects to hear back about the grant by January.

If the grant is awarded, Zemek plans to have the Armory inspected for environmental hazards.

"This is a must-do step," he said. "The grant is a gateway to other funds."

The city council approved applying for the DEED grant.

The 24,000-square-foot Armory is located at Park Avenue South and Second Street West. It has been vacant for several years.

According to Zemek, the city of Park Rapids foreclosed on the property a few years ago after a previous attempt at redevelopment was attempted but not completed. The city sold the armory to the current owner at auction for $26,000.

The current assessed value of the property is $126,000, which consists of $126,000 for the land and a value of zero for the building itself.

At a previous meeting, Zemek estimated redevelopment of the armory would cost around $2.6 million. He said he thinks a coordinated effort with public and private resources could make the project viable.

The Downtown Revitalization Plan listed the armory as "strongly contributing" to the historical character of downtown Park Rapids.

The "Armory Square" proposal is still just a concept and would need to be more detailed before moving forward with any collaboration.

In other business, the council:

-Accepted the resignation of council member Mike Strodtman. He will be moving out of the city limits. The city is advertising for the open position.

-Approved back flow preventers for three properties on Front Avenue. Several homes on Front Avenue have had sewage backup problems and this will be a temporary solution. The city will pay a portion of the cost.