By Tim Krohn
---- — MANKATO — As the state and nation continued its relatively slow ascent out of the recession, the Mankato area saw a dizzying amount of new construction and business growth in 2013.
Topping the list is the recently started $15 million Tailwind Group project along Front Street and Riverfront Drive in Mankato. The project will see the demolition of Miller Motors and RedSky to help make way for a housing and retail building on Front Street, a parking ramp and a seven-story office tower along Riverfront Drive.
Construction in Mankato was up by a third in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year.
The $8.9 million Mankato Clinic expansion on the Wickersham Campus is underway, with an opening slated for mid-2014.
VINE Faith in Action’s $5.5 million project near downtown is transforming a former college classroom building turned government office building into in an adult community center for area residents in “mid-life and beyond.” The complete gutting of the Nichols Office Center began this year, with completion expected in the middle of next year.
Imperial Plastics built a new $10 million building in the city’s east-side industrial park.
A flurry of retail and restaurant construction also took place this year, much of it in-filling vacant lots along Madison Avenue.
Pawn America recently opened a new store with more warehouse and retail space than its former site on Madison Avenue.
A new Panda Express restaurant also opened recently in front of Cub Foods on Madison Avenue.
Family Video and Marco's Pizza built a building along Victory Drive, behind McDonalds. The video store is open with the pizza shop to open soon.
Meanwhile, construction is moving fast on a strip mall and a standalone building in front of Crossroads Center, across Madison Avenue from the entrance of Walmart. The standalone building will be a Starbucks, which a few years ago closed a store near where the new one will be.
A strip mall near MSU, across from CVS, saw a total renovation this year, with apartments added on top and retail space on the ground floor that includes Massad's and Yu's Chinese Cuisine.
The city also saw the construction or renovation of other strip malls and construction of several apartment complexes.
As big as the year has been, 2014 promises to be even bigger.
A large area of land behind Madison East Center was cleared this summer, preparing for development of upper-end apartments as well as office and commercial buildings. As part of the project, the city completed an long-hoped-for extension of Adams Street behind Madison East Center.
But the biggest project to get underway next spring will be the Wal-Mart distribution center, scheduled to open in 2015.
It will be the biggest private building project in Mankato since the River Hills Mall.
City officials are estimating the project will cost between $25 million and $35 million.
The 420,000-square-foot facility, which will store and distribute perishable food products to Wal-Mart stores throughout the Upper Midwest, is only the first of two phases Wal-Mart has planned for the land it purchased in 2005. Company officials plan to add a 400,000-square-foot dry goods distribution center in the future.