The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 5, 2013

Marigold site developer scales down proposal for next phase

By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer

NORTH MANKATO — The Marigold apartment complex project proposal is back — at about half the size of one previously rejected.

Developer Van Moody is proposing a four-story 64-unit apartment on land off of Belgrade Avenue at the foot of the Veterans Memorial Bridge. The first floor would be covered parking with apartments on the upper three floors.

Moody built the first Marigold building on the site a couple of years ago, which houses his computer business and four apartments on the second floor. The remaining land is the site of the former Marigold Dairy and is owned by the city’s Port Authority.

A proposed Marigold II project last year faltered under the pressure of public opposition and the inability of the project to legally get setback variances that would have been required. That proposal was six stories and 106 upscale apartment units.

The new plan will go before the Planning Commission this month for review and then will be sent to the Port Authority, which will decide if the plan should get tax-increment financing, which allows the additional property-tax revenue generated by the project to be used to help pay for the project.

The new plan was announced at Tuesday morning’s Port Authority meeting, although details of the plan were not unveiled and no official action was needed.

But Port Authority members praised Moody for going back to the drawing board.

“This is exactly what I was looking for — about half the size,” said Commissioner Greg Abbott.

Said Commissioner Dave Arnold: “A different developer could have just thrown up his hands.”

Commission Chairman Bob Knutson said getting people to live downtown may be the last hope for the city center. “We need to do something to bring vitality downtown because we can’t keep throwing subsidies into the downtown (businesses).”

He said no retail developments have been proposed for the Marigold site — or elsewhere downtown — and said bringing residents to the area may be the last chance to save the area.

“If downtown starts slipping away — if there’s empty buildings — it’s hard to do anything about getting it back.”

While the renewed effort to bring well over 100 new residents to the downtown was viewed as a way to help revitalize a struggling Main Street, one resident warned commissioners not to throw support behind something without listening to residents and without first developing a long-range development plan for the area.

Barb Church, who lives next to the Marigold site and was instrumental in raising issues that stalled the earlier project, said she doesn’t have any details to judge the new project. But she said the city shouldn’t simply assume that bringing residents downtown is the best approach or what residents want.

“You need a land-use plan, a long-range development plan, and you need to listen to citizens,” Church said. “You can’t just have a little committee decide what’s best for the rest of us.”

Arnold noted the trend around the country is that more people are choosing to live in downtown areas. Church agreed but said the city still needs to be deliberative rather than “going with the flavor of the month.”     

Getting a project built on the site could slightly benefit all property taxpayers in the city. That’s because the city in the past sold bonds to buy and remove homes in the area and prepare the site for potential development.

Those bonds have a balloon payment coming that needs to be paid for either with additional property taxes generated by a new development on the site or by other means — most likely city general fund money that would be paid for by taxpayers. The city has said that the cost for those bonds to property taxpayers would be less than $4 annually for a $100,000 home and less than $10 for a $200,000 home.