The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 12, 2013

Habitat to build new ReStore

By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — The Habitat ReStore isn't moving far, but it's certainly expanding — doubling its building size and thereby multiplying its fundraising potential.

Habitat for Humanity of South Central Minnesota unveiled its plans Wednesday to build a $1.5 million, 15,500-square-foot building at 1730 Bassett Drive, right across the street from its existing 7,700-square-foot building. The nonprofit quietly purchased the 1.8 acres of land for an undisclosed sum in December, said Executive Director Julie Schmillen.

Habitat launched its capital campaign Wednesday with two dozen community members on board to raise $870,000 for the new building of which I&S Group is the architect and engineering firm. The current building will be sold, netting about $530,000. And ReStore will contribute $100,000.

Schmillen said construction bids are being taken, and an initial timeline indicates groundbreaking could be spring 2014 with an early estimated opening of fall 2014.

“It's extremely exciting,” she said.

The ReStore opened in 2007, selling donated building materials to the public. Due to space limitations (the showroom is 3,500 square feet), large donations are being turned down, Schmillen said. Habitat also has a warehouse in North Mankato where some donated items are stored until there's room in the showroom to display them.

“It's very crowded,” Schmillen said.

The new building will have a 10,000-square-foot showroom. The rest of the building will include office space, conference rooms and a large receiving area for donations.

“The whole idea with the new store would be to increase our sales (and) increase the capacity for donations,” she said.

A Habitat home costs about $120,000 to build. Proceeds from the ReStore cover the costs for about one home per year, Schmillen said.

“With the new ReStore, we will be able to build two extra homes per year,” she said.

Habitat has an annual budget of more than $1 million for housing production and builds about six to eight homes per year. The nonprofit does not receive any county, state or federal funding, so Schmillen said it's important for them to become more self-sufficient.

In addition to the ReStore, the nonprofit also does grant-writing, holds fundraisers and collects mortgage payments on all the homes built.

Mankato Mayor Eric Anderson and North Mankato Mayor Mark Dehen attended the unveiling of the plans Wednesday morning and offered comments about the services Habitat provides to the community.

For example, Schmillen said, since the ReStore has been open, it has diverted 620 tons of materials from the landfill. The new store is expected to divert 160 tons of materials per year.

Other economic factors people might not consider include the tax write-offs for donations; the property value increases for people who purchase items at the ReStore to improve their homes; and the boost to the tax base when those property values do increase, Schmillen said.

And when people buy things from the ReStore, Habitat can build more homes, she said.

“So it trickles down,” she said. “We always call it the win-win situation.”