by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Forest Lake officials were at the State Capitol on Thursday (April 4) looking for help on a redevelopment project.
Mayor Christopher Johnson and City Administrator Aaron Parish appeared before the Senate Tax Reform Committee in support of legislation that would extend the duration of a local tax increment (TIF) financing district by 10 years.
The city is looking to spruce up the Highway 61 corridor, a corridor that has become “somewhat forgotten and blighted” as traffic has moved elsewhere, Johnson said. The city has come to Capitol before looking for help with the project, but at that time, it was suggested city officials come back when more solid plans were in place.
“We do have that,” Johnson said.
The city of Forest Lake, its Economic Development Authority and PACE Development are collaborating to redevelop Northland Mall, a 102,000-square-foot facility that’s only 12 percent occupied, and also to redevelop the City Hall site to allow for construction of multi-family housing.
Parish advertised the redevelopment of Northland Mall as the biggest opportunity for redevelopment in the corridor. Redevelopment of the City Hall site is estimated to capture some $94,000 in real estate taxes — two years ago, the property brought in nothing — and redevelopment of Northland Mall is estimated to bring in $116,000 in taxes, an additional $25,000.
That local officials view the redevelopment efforts as of regional significance can be seen in the support Washington County and Forest Lake School Board have given the projects, Johnson said.
TIF District 21 was created in the 1990s, according to the city, to redevelop properties around downtown Forest Lake. Currently, the district is set to decertify in 2015.
The bill was laid over by for possible inclusion into a committee bill. Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, is carrying the Forest Lake TIF legislation.
Tim Budig can be reached at [email protected]