Work on $13.3 million facility commences this week; expected to take one year
A small mound of dirt in the middle of a large, pothole-ridden parking lot provided the backdrop for a major moment in Forest Lake history Monday afternoon. City officials, employees and residents, along with architects and engineers, converged on the former Northland Mall site to break ground for the Forest Lake City Center. According to projections, in one year construction will wrap up on the $13.3 million facility that will house the police and fire departments and city hall.
“(This project) represents the decision of the leadership of the city to take a significant step forward toward a future that we choose, as opposed to incremental steps from the status quo,” Mayor Chris Johnson said during a brief ceremony.
The second-term mayor said the project, which currently is running about $2.6 million under its budget of $21.2 million, will bring about myriad benefits. The Economic Development Authority, which will lease the building to the city, is marketing outlots on the property for commercial development. Consolidating city functions in one location will also allow current city-owned property throughout town to be redeveloped, Johnson said. The site improvements and potential for state funding brought about by the project will allow for better treatment of stormwater draining into Clear Lake, he noted.
Johnson thanked former city officials, in particular former Mayor Ray Daninger, now an EDA member.
“If it wasn’t for the hard decisions they made in the past, we wouldn’t be able to be here making this decision,” Johnson said.
Kicking off the project on Sept. 30 meant that the city will reach its first construction goal: having crews on the ground in early October.
Starting work this fall allowed the city to take advantage of favorable bids for winter construction. It also means the City Center could be completed by the end of next September.
Project manager Brian Hook, from the project’s construction management firm, Kraus-Anderson, said it is key to perform soil correction and pour the footings and foundation before the ground freezes.
He expects site preparation to begin this week and digging to commence next week. Above-ground work should be visible by Jan. 1, he said.