By Nan Royce
HOWARD LAKE, MN A long-term Howard Lake improvement venture gained traction last week, as the Munson Lakes Nutrition project received $197,500 in redevelopment funds from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the agency announced recently.
The funds are to be used toward demolition and public infrastructure on the one-acre site.
Project’s winding path
The Munson Lakes project has been in the works for a long time. Howard Lake City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller estimates there’s a solid three years of work behind the enterprise.
In the beginning, Munson Lakes approached the City of Howard Lake about the potentiality of expanding their offices. At that time, city staff presented alternative actions to the Munson Lakes Board for them to acquire the adjacent Auto Choice property, tear down that building, their current office, and truck shop.
The plan would have necessiated the Munson Lakes business being fully in charge of their desired expansion. Munson Lakes also would have needed to find temporary office space for about a year while construction took place. The project stalled.
Approximately a year ago, the idea sparked again when the owners of the Auto Choice property became interested in selling it.
The city, wanting to assist its local business district, offered to act as a developer, build a building on the site, and then lease it back to Munson Lakes.
At this time, and after a lot of studying, Haggenmiller is working to develop a financing and project proposal for consideration by Munson Lakes and the city council. His intention is to have the proposal ready in time for perusal at both the next Munson Lakes board meeing April 3, and the Howard Lake City Council’s next meeting April 18.
“It is my hope that at these respective meetings Munson Lakes and the city will agree to general lease terms for a proposed office building,” Haggenmiller stated. “This is substantially significant because it would then trigger hiring a construction manager, completing architectural plans, commencing the bonding process to finance the project, commencing planning and zoning-related approvals, and trigger the actual acquisition of the Auto Choice property itself.”
DEED officials anticipate the project will create five jobs, retain four jobs and increase the tax base by $34,815.
Haggenmiller views the Munson Lakes project as the beginning steps toward downtown revitalization, referring to it as a “cornerstone.”
Other pieces of the revitalization puzzle include the restoration and preservation of the historic city hall building, and the improvement of the parking area behind city hall. Other potential action includes exercising the option to purchase the building located on the corner of County Road 6 South and Highway 12 to demolish and create additional parking.
The big picture is that the Munson Lakes project is back on the move, and is part of a bigger push for city improvements.
“All of these plans use very little local tax dollars,” Haggenmiller said, “and they are primarily funded through federal grant programs, public/private partnerships, and the like.”