Old city hall demo begins

Photo by Ryan Howard The demolition of the old Forest Lake city hall began this week. Gaughan Companies plans to build the Lighthouse Lofts apartment complex on the site, to open next spring.
Photo by Ryan Howard
The demolition of the old Forest Lake city hall began this week. Gaughan Companies plans to build the Lighthouse Lofts apartment complex on the site, to open next spring.

Demolition on Forest Lake’s old city hall began this week after the Forest Lake City Council signed off on the final approvals needed for Gaughan Companies to take possession of the property at 220 Lake St. N. The site, which Gaughan purchased for a dollar, is the future home of the five-story Lighthouse Lofts apartment complex.

The council approved a tax increment financing district (in which $1.34 million of the property’s future taxes will be captured and used to fund the project’s infrastructure) at the site during its April 10 meeting, and it signed off on the vacation of Third Avenue Southwest adjacent to the property, the final planned unit development agreement and the demolition agreement at a special meeting before its April 17 workshop. Though the council praised the project, Councilmen Ed Eigner and Michael Freer voted against the TIF district, stating that they thought that the city was giving up too much to get the project done.

“I think it’s a great project for downtown,” Eigner said. “I don’t know that it’s the right use of TIF money to do that, and the sale of the property alone for a dollar should have been enough to get this thing off the ground.”

Mayor Ben Winnick joined with Councilman Sam Husnik and Councilwoman Mara Bain to pass the financing, praising its potential as a development driver in the area.

“I’m not the biggest tax increment financing fan, but I do think this is an exceptional project,” Winnick said.

Demolition is planned to take place over the next few weeks, with foundations for the new building to be laid into the summer and construction to begin in mid-summer. Gaughan is planning to open the complex around this time next year.

  • Shane Warnke

    Tearing down the new one, because they decided to waste the money on the new one, only to propose disbanding the Forest Lake police department a couple of short years later. Although the argument may be that the cost of the police department may be the largest line item within the city’s budget, I feel we may look at how we’ve gotten there. Forest Lake is notorious for promoting community growth, without taking into account how it will later effect the basic infrastructure of the city.

    Mr. Winnick mentions that they city will receive the same quality of service, if it indeed goes the Washington County route. I would like to know Mr. Mayor, were guaranteed community relationships guaranteed in Washington County’s service proposal? Or are the citizens of Forest Lake supposed to drink the Mayoral “Kool-Aid” and believe you when you say that the only difference is, officers would now be wearing brown uniforms instead of blue?

    Truth be told Mr. Mayor, the citizens of Forest Lake take pride in their police. It takes many years of collaboration, community events, and multiple stakeholders to develop a trusting relationship. Furthermore, do you really expect everyone to believe that all of these officers would receive offers of employment with Washington County?

    I realize the difficulties that come with budgeting and seeing to a city being run efficiently. But getting rid of your police department to save a little over $300K? Less isn’t always about more Mr. Mayor, I hope you come to realize that. #textbookpoorleadership