Legal resolution leads to demolition

Downtown eyesores razed following closure of eminent domain case


With legal proceedings over, a longtime eyesore in downtown Forest Lake has bit the dust.

Work crews wasted little time last Friday knocking down the one-time gas station and convenience store building on the southwest corner of Lake and Broadway. The former Taco John’s building to the south was demolished on Monday. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Crews razed two unoccupied buildings near the southwest corner of the US-61 (Lake Street) and Broadway (CR-2) roundabout on Friday and Monday. The structures, formerly a gas station and Taco John’s, were on a property involved with the roundabout project at the city’s main intersection. The roundabout was completed in the fall of 2010 after several months of downtown construction.

The city used eminent domain during the roundabout construction to take a slice of the .89-acre lot for a possible future right-hand turn lane.

Negotiations over the price tag for the 8,521-square-foot corner ensued, with the city depositing $264,000 as original compensation.

The property’s owner, a shareholder in Lake Area Bank, sought $482,000. The city countered with an offer for $380,000 following a subsequent appraisal but a deal could not be struck and the matter went before a court-appointed panel of condemnation commissioners.

“In addition to the reduction in square footage, a fair amount of the proceeding revolved [around] the reduction in value due to the new parcel size, configuration, and access as a result of the taking,” said City Administrator Aaron Parrish.

This spring, the panel announced a binding compensation of $400,000. The city also had to pay just over $52,000 in fees. The payment was lumped in as part of the overall roundabout project.

Bank’s plans

Speculation linking Lake Area Bank to a new building on the site have made the rounds since Broadway Ventures LLC purchased the land in 2007.

However, no decision has been made at this point, according to Matt Elvehjem, location lead for the Forest Lake branch located at 91 Lake Street S.

Original plans for a new building took a hit from the economic downturn and the roundabout project, Elvehjem said, and the owner is now more likely to sell than build.

“The bank is clearly committed to the Forest Lake commuity and if we don’t build over there what that means is we are going to do a remodel at the current location,” Elvehjem said, noting that the same shareholder owns the bank’s current building. “…One way or the other, it is exciting for the community to see something moving forward on that site.”

The demolition work is the result of the conclusion of the legal process.

“That is behind us and we know the buildings on that site were becoming an eyesore, so we wanted to make sure it was cleaned up for the good of Forest Lake,” Elvehjem said.