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.