Municipal campus plan clears another hurdle

Council favors redevelopment of Northland Mall over alternate sites


Clint Riese
News Editor

A long and emotional special joint meeting of the City Council and Economic Development Authority ended last Tuesday with a split vote moving a proposed $23.5 million municipal campus another step closer to reality.

The meeting began with an extensive presentation of results from a facilities master plan study conducted in tandem by two architecture firms. The report from BKV Group and Finn Daniels Architects attempted to address the facility deficiencies it noted in the context of a growing city population expected to reach 30,000-38,000 by 2030. The architects reviewed previous reports, assessed current facilities, calculated space needs, analyzed potential building sites and conducted a preliminary cost analysis.

Three “master plans” were presented as a result, and the council voted 3-2 to continue the preparation work necessary to bring the redevelopment plan at Northland Mall to a final vote. The first alternative was to build a shared complex at the city-owned Headwaters site and to rebuild the fire station at its current site. It carried an estimated price tag of $22.1 million.

The second alternative, costing an estimated $19.9 million, called for the renovation of city hall and a new police station at that current site and the construction of a new fire station at its current site. Each plan envisioned a new public works facility eventually along Forest Boulevard.

Northland Mall, currently empty for the most part, is on the west side of South Lake Street (Highway 61). The lone proposal now under consideration calls for the demolition of all but the three southernmost units of the mall and the construction of a $14 million building to house city hall and the police and fire departments.

The vote to move forward, given by Mayor Chris Johnson and council members Jim Dufour and Susan Young, allows for preparation of the proposed building’s lease and related financing documents estimated to cost $20,000.

The council voted unanimously to hold an open house from noon to 8 p.m. next Tuesday, Nov. 27 at city facilities. The municipal campus issue will not be on the agenda at the council’s meeting next Monday, but the council and EDA will hold a special meeting on the topic next Thursday, Nov. 29. That will represent the final chance to nix the project without losing approximately $45,000 in earnest money.

If the proposal is still on the table, it will come up for final approval on Dec. 10 or Dec. 17.

  • FED UP

    What a surprise…Forest Lake City Council is moving forward with spending $23,000,000 of taxpayers money, even though several other less expensive options were purposed. It is real easy to put this project on the city credit card when they don’t have to worry about paying for it. I got my 2013 estimated property tax notice this week, and the value is down another 10 % but the taxes are up 3.1% (how does that work?) Taxpayers of Forest Lake wake up! When do the people who are going to have to pay for this project get to have a say about it? Call / email the mayor and city council and let them know how you feel. attend the “last chance” City Council meeting November 26 – get active.

  • D. Fenster

    Yes get active and educated. If you take into account expiring TIF money, essential land swaps, the fact that we need new public safety buildings, the cost isn’t as extreme as those against wish to portray it in sound bites. Yes, taxes will go up some but it’s because those in control of the city in the past have always chose to not invest a penny into it as have the owners of the mall itself. The current council is willing to finally address these issues in one swoop so we can quit arguing about it until the end of time. With any luck, the new council will be able to trim some $$$ off the final bill in the years ahead.

    • Eric Langness

      Nearly 25% property tax increase must not be ‘extreme’ to you. It is to most of us!

  • Chet

    Another step in the right direction for the city! Broadway Avenues looks great, and I hope they continue to move forward with this project too!

  • Herman C.

    Not if you actually read and try to understand what Mr. Fenster is saying. The tax rate % will not be that high in the long term.

  • Cameron