City, county looking into hazards
After closing a few years ago and going back to Becker County in tax forfeiture, the Gary's Furniture building in downtown Frazee has gone through a few bumps.
After closing a few years ago and going back to Becker County in tax forfeiture, the Gary’s Furniture building in downtown Frazee has gone through a few bumps.
The county talked about selling the building (which is actually four parcels but multiple additions making it one building), but the city sent an inspector in and he came out with a not-so-favorable review – not fit for resale. The inspector found mold and leaking water. There are also possibly asbestos tiles, mercury switch and lead paint. The extent of the hazardous materials won’t be known until after an analysis can be conducted.
In a letter from Frazee Building Official Sid Fossan, he states that “the building is not code complaint. After inspections and upon reviewing the photos and applicable codes, it would take a significant amount of time and money to begin to meet the minimum code requirements.”
So the city asked the county for a six-month moratorium on the sale.
With that, the county has applied for a grant through MN Targeted Brownfield Program Assessment for a two-phase environmental investigation of the property.
County EDA Director Guy Fischer said that the grant is on a first come, first serve basis, so he is getting the application ready to submit on opening day. He said he’s hoping that since the project is outstate, that will also give it a little more weight.
“It’s good to have this assessment done prior to any demo being done on the site,” he said. “The facility is fairly old. You just try to cover the bases relative to that and then you have a better sense going in on what needs to come out first.”
Fischer said it is possible to find a buyer who wants to take care of the demolition themselves, but that’s usually not the case. He said the Lake Park-Audubon School District ran into this very issue when it was trying to sell the old high school in Lake Park.
“They had money to do asbestos abatement, but they had a developer who came in, and he just wasn’t ready to take a bite and purchase the property,” he said. “So what they had to do was just kind of back out and say, ‘OK, we’re going to demo and mitigate the asbestos out of these sections, and then they put the building up for resale and it sold.”
So prepping for the process is key.
“The value for the county is $40,000-plus,” Fischer said of the project and getting the grant to fund it.
Though the county is the owner of the property, it is working closely with the city of Frazee because of the location.
“They are very cognizant of the fact that they want something good to go in there, so there is some planning that needs to occur,” Fischer said.
There is a lot of potential for the prime .43-acre site. There is space for commercial on the ground level and apartments above. Or just retail on ground level. There’s also a possible of existing businesses relocating to the site.
Frazee City Administrator Jon Smith said that with the grant, the city and county can do their due diligence and make sure there’s no contamination on site, whether that means within the building materials or in the ground.
“In the meantime,” he said, “we’re going to be looking for a developer to take a look at the project and hopefully come up with some ideas and thoughts for how that property could be used.”
Because there is so much work that needs to be done to bring the property up to code, Smith said he’s fairly certain the building will need to come down, but it’s also not impossible to bring the existing building up to code either.
Ultimately though, he said the city’s hope is it will be demoed because of the structural issues and be able to revitalize that block.
It’s no secret that many of the buildings along that downtown block are in disrepair and have issues of their own. Fischer said getting a new building in there would a step in the right direction.
“There’s a real opportunity ... to put anchor there for that block,” he said.
“It would be great to see commercial on the main level of that, and then if it fits, to have residential, some downtown living, on that second floor,” Smith said, adding there is more bang for your buck when a project can be mixed use like that.
The assessment should be done this winter, and hopefully during that same time period Smith and the City of Frazee can identify some potential developers.
“We’d like the project, obviously, to go as quickly as possible, and the county would obviously like to have that property back on the tax roll,” Smith said. “That being said, we’d like to go as quick as possible but we all know the nature of the beast is it’s not that fast.”