Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Nov. 5, 2001

Keeping downtown strong

By Lynda Jensen

Plans for the Security State Bank of Howard Lake to be relocated at the south side of Highway 12 will offer residents several advantages, proponents of the development claim.

The move, which includes proposed expansion of the medical clinic and the bank itself, should optimize basic services along the south side of Highway 12, keeping the downtown area strong, Howard Lake City Administrator Doug Borglund pointed out.

"The project will keep key functions downtown," commented Security State Bank Vice President of Investments John Forstrom.

The development is the boldest move in recent history by the Howard Lake City Council, which required eminent domain proceedings on lots contained in block 17 and half of block 16 along Highway 12.

The project is part of a vision for vigorous Howard Lake development that will take advantage of expansion and growth in the next several decades, Borglund said. It will strengthen the downtown area and solve several problems at once for the city and bank.

The move has stirred controversy, since it displaced two businesses, and affected four residential structures there; although two of the residences were in dire need of repair.

Not a new idea

The idea to relocate the bank was conceived in March when Forstrom and Borglund compared notes about the desire for space in their respective locations, Forstrom said.

At this time, a public workshop meeting was conducted April 30 to address the potential new development, Borglund said.

It was attended by a handful of residents, council members and bank employees. The meeting included a tour of the existing bank building, Borglund said.

Aside from this, the original idea to redevelop along the Highway 12 corridor has been around for about a decade, Forstrom pointed out.

Thoughts of expanding the bank started a few years ago, Forstrom said. The bank looked at a number of sites along Highway 12, including one by Dura Supreme, but none appeared suitable, Forstrom said.

The bank's facility was remodeled in 1995, when it had $18 million in assets, Forstrom said. Now, the bank has $50 million in assets, he said.

Currently, the bank's facility holds 5,000 square feet, and it will expand into 8,000 square feet.

The proposed medical clinic, which currently holds 1,200 square feet, will expand into a facility with 3,000 to 5,000 square feet, Forstrom said.

The bank desires to enter into a long-term lease arrangement with the clinic, Forstrom said.

Councilor Shelly Reddemann pointed out at a past council meeting that when a business like the bank needs to expand, it usually only finds a suitable place outside of the downtown business district, as demonstrated by other cities in the past.

Delano is an example of this very scenario, with the State Bank there leaving the downtown area and moving to Highway 12, Forstrom pointed out.

"It's the end of the old downtown area," when this happens, Reddemann said. This way, everything remains within reach of citizens, including the post office, bank, and city offices in close proximity to each other, instead of fragmenting the business community, he said

A community room foyer is also planned

A new 1,200 square foot foyer is planned for the proposed new complex, which will offer an upscale meeting place with a possible coffee shop, or small bakery, for the community, Forstrom said.

In what will be the new city hall offices (the former bank building), the city council will be able to meet there instead of the community room, Borglund said.

The proposed bank/clinic site will be approximately two acres, Forstrom said. This amount of space is needed for the required parking of employees and customers, for today's size operation and for the future, he said.

The cost of the project is unknown yet, until the clinic makes a decision about how much space may be leased from the bank, which determines the size of the building, Forstrom said.

Project time lines

Demolition will commence of the properties in blocks 16 and 17 in the next few weeks, and the bank plans to complete purchase of the lots from the city by the end of the year, Forstrom said.

The bank plans to break ground for its new facility in the spring, with occupancy to be had in the spring of 2003.

City offices are in need of room

Currently, all of the services for the city are crammed into the first floor of the city hall building, Borglund said.

This move will also enable the city liquor store to expand into the city hall building, and will increase the space for city administrative services by almost ten-fold, he said.

The bank building has handicapped accessible facilities, a vault that the city can use to keep documents, more space for the community to use for meetings, additional room for the police department; all available without down time from construction, Forstrom said.

The administrative offices currently use 560 square feet, and 120 square feet for the police department, Borglund said.

The increase in space will allow the city to prepare for the next 20 years by moving into the bank's building, complete with furnishings, he said.

The move will also keep the Howard Lake Lions intact on the second floor of the city hall as well, Borglund said.

Proponents point to the following aspects:

· The project will solve space needs for the city and bank, which are both experiencing growing pains. The bank will almost double its current size.

· The project will have no tax impact on the public in the immediate future and less of an impact over time in relation to the city hall renovation, since the city is buying the existing bank building at a substantial savings than it would be to build, renovate or add on to an existing structure for city administrative needs, Borglund said.

· The new complex will offer a larger, well-equipped bank, a proposed larger clinic, and a new community foyer with possibly a bakery, coffee shop, or other meeting place to be used by the public.

This will facilitate the need for additional employees for both the clinic and bank, Forstrum said.


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