Stevens County Times Editorial: Take a breath on apartment project
Officials in Hancock and in Stevens County may be concerned about the pace of progress in a proposed apartment complex in Hancock's downtown.They may also be a bit surprised that Midwest Minnesota Development Corporation of Detroit Lakes is buying an existing apartment complex in Hancock.
It is disappointing that submitted bids for a proposed 12-unit apartment complex in Hancock were too high for MMCDC to pursue the project. MMCDC president told the Stevens County Times and in a Jan. 2 letter to county coordinator Becky Young the estimates for the Hancock project were based on a similar project in Perham that was buit for $1.3 milion. Bids for the Hancock project were in the $1.8 to $1.9 million range.
Based on the MMCDC website and stories of MMCDC projects in various media outlets and non-profit newsletters, MMCDC has a reputation for building quality rentals, owner occupied homes and other community projects. MMCDC is a partner with Community Development Bank which has a facility in Hancock.
Community Development Bank's facility in Hancock is an example of the quality investment by the organization as a whole.
Unfortunately, the bank now sits across the street from a vacant lot that isn't generating much in taxes now. But, the lot is still an improvement over the buildings that previously stood there.
Those buildings were unsightly outside and for the most part, worse inside.
Still, the city of Hancock and Stevens County provided money to help demolish those buildings and now wait for the return on the investment through more tax revenue from an apartment complex.
While the city of Hancock and Stevens County are correct in being concerned about the pace of the proposed project, the concerns shouldn't outweigh the very real possibility that a revamped rental project will be constructed on the vacant lot.
The former elementary school property in Morris is an example of the length of time it can take for a property to be improved. The city had sought input from the community from 2001 on until eventually, it chose to demolish the former school building in 2013. The city had bought the property from the school district for $1 in 2005.
The property was empty for a time after the building was demolished before an assisted living facility was built. Recently, an apartment complex with more than 50 units was built on the property.
The city of Morris spent many hours and several years reviewing proposals and possibilities generated by a redevelopment committee and others.
Over at least the past 10 years, ideas and proposals for the Kirkbride property, the former mental health facility, in Fergus Falls have fallen flat. Now, the city is pursuing state money to demolish most of the large structure.
Hancock may have an advantage over Morris and Fergus in that an experience partner is already considering projects, even if the first attempt was not successful.
Over the past two weeks, MMCDC has shared an update on the potential apartment project through a a report to the Hancock Economic Development Authority conference call with city and county officials, in an interview with the Stevens County Times and in a written letter to the county. For the county and the city, that was much needed communication.
Shipley said in his Jan. 12 letter to the county that "As we move forward, we will keep you abreast of the project."
Communication will help ease city and county concerns. It should also make it easier to be patient and more optimistic that housing will replace that vacant lot.