North Fourth Block development study

project
North Block
  1. Matthew Verdick

    Parks & Facilities Director
    Phone: 507-332-6105

  2. Suzy Rook

    Communications Coordinator
    Phone: 507-384-6509

Overview

Knowing the Law Enforcement Center/jail would eventually need to be expanded, Rice County's board of commissioners began acquiring properties adjacent to the LEC/jail as they became available.

But when the Rice County Board of Commissioners in 2021 learned that an addition to Study scope and existing site Opens in new windowthe Law Enforcement Center/jail on its current site was not desirable or cost effective, it turned its attention to adjacent county-owned properties along Fourth Street and First Avenue NW in Faribault. 

The board selected Wold Architects to help it assess the viability of the eight existing properties and evaluate the best and highest use for the north portion of the block just west of downtown Faribault.

Background

As part of its review, Wold staff have met regularly with a committee that includes city and county officials, and Commissioners Dave Miller and Jim Purfeerst to review the Board of Commissioners' goals for the site, information gathered, as well as city of Faribault zoning requirements and its vision for the area. 

The committee has also discussed the city's desire for additional secure parking for the Faribault Police Department, just east of the block.

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Guiding principles

  • Strive for uses and solutions that benefit many people and are based on informed decisions to ensure taxpayer dollars are put to good use.
  • New development should promote growth with the downtown Faribault area while also working symbiotically with the existing city center fabric. Its role are the "gateway to downtown" should be considered.
  • The history of the site and its elements should be celebrated and memorialized while also providing maximum flexibility for future needs and growth.

The properties129 Fourth St. NW - Klemer Building

Seven of the eight buildings, constructed between the late 1890s and 1950, suffer from a variety of ills, including aging mechanical systems: plumbing, electrical and heating/cooling.

The most prominent of the group, the Klemer Building (129 Fourth St. NW), was built in the late 19th century as a store and offices for the Faribault Woolen Mill Co. and acquired by the county in late 1999 for $125,000. 

On Feb. 1, 2022, Wold representatives told the Board of Commissioners that reviving this piece of the city's history could cost up to $5 million, but still not return it to its former glory. Replacing missing architectural enhancements and recreating original exterior finishes would be an additional cost. Because the building was denied a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, grant funding for repairs/renovations is scarce.

In late February, Faribault city leaders plan to ask its City Council to designate the properties as blighted, that is, no longer in an acceptable or beneficial condition. The designation is valuable to potential developers interested in seeking financial assistance from the city of Faribault through Tax Increment Financing.

The eighth building, 306 First Ave. NW, is in good condition. The county plans to continue using it as a new "clubhouse" for Friendship House, which serves adults with serious and persistent mental illness.

Its neighbor to the north, 308 First Ave. NW, was acquired from the state of Minnesota in December 2021 through the tax forfeiture process. As part of Rice County's application to the state, it shared its plan to demolish the structure and use the land for a community garden that Friendship House club members would tend.

A ninth building, a law office at 302 First Ave. NW, is not owned by the county and is not part of the review.

The county will continue using the current Law Enforcement Center at 118 Third St. NW, part of which sits on the National Register of Historic Places, once the new Public Safety Center is complete. Current plans call for Community Corrections, and Parks and Facilities staff to move into the space.

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The concepts

Wold has developed four concept plans for the area. The options were presented to the County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Feb. 15. No determination on how the county will proceed has yet been made.

  1. Renovate & Repair
  2. Parking
  3. Redevelop
  4. Postpone development

1-Maintain existing site Opens in new windowOption one is to renovate/repair six of the eight existing structures.

The building at 306 First Ave. NW is the new home for Friendship House, a gathering place for residents diagnosed with serious and persistent mental iIlness.

The adjacent property at 308 First Ave. NW will be demolished. The county, in documents filed with the state to acquire the property, which was in tax forfeiture, committed to converting the property to a community garden for Friendship House residents to tend.

Costs for option one are expected to be high. Wold Architects in February 2022 estimated that making the Klemer Building at 129 Fourth St. NW habitable would run anywhere from $3.5 million to $5 million. 

The building was constructed in the late 1890s as a store and offices for Faribault Woolen Mill Co. It was designed by Olof Hanson, believed to be the first deaf architect in the United States. Hanson's design has been modified over the years; many of the building's distinctive architectural elements have been removed. Historic restoration would be in addition to Wold's estimates.

Sellner mural
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