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Development plan looking to leap forward

Tower officials hope to sign final agreement for townhouses and more around city’s new harbor

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 2/24/16

TOWER— The city of Tower could take a big leap forward on Leap Day. That’s when city officials here hope to have a final, signed agreement with a master developer for townhomes and eventually …

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Development plan looking to leap forward

Tower officials hope to sign final agreement for townhouses and more around city’s new harbor

Posted

TOWER— The city of Tower could take a big leap forward on Leap Day. That’s when city officials here hope to have a final, signed agreement with a master developer for townhomes and eventually much more around the city’s new harbor.

At a meeting here last week, members of the city’s harbor committee and representatives of Nordic Business Development, Inc., agreed on the final wording of a development agreement, which both sides expect to execute pending final review by attorneys. The city council is currently scheduled to vote on approval of the deal at a special meeting on Feb. 29.

The developers, who are in the process of establishing a new limited liability corporation, known as Tower Vision 2025, propose to sell and construct 20 townhomes as part of the first of at least four phases of development around the harbor zone. Subsequent phases would likely include a mix of commercial space for shops and restaurants, along with other potential residential developments, or a hotel.

“We want it clear that we have this broader, ten-year vision for redevelopment in the city,” said Orlyn Kringstad, NBDI principal, who will be partner in the new LLC.

As part of the deal, the city, through the Tower Economic Development Authority, would provide land and the public infrastructure, including water and sewer, public roads, sidewalks, boardwalks, and docking on the harbor, which would be available for lease to tenants of the townhome development. Tower Vision 2025 will be in charge of designing, marketing, selling, and building the project, as well as updating the city’s current harbor master plan. The company would retain the exclusive rights to develop lands around the harbor provided it adequately completes the first phase of the project.

The city hopes to rely on funding sources, like the IRRRB, the Department of Employment and Economic Development, and St. Louis County for help with its end of the development-related costs— and such funding appears likely. “We’re very supportive of this project,” said Steve Peterson, director of development for the IRRRB, who attended last week’s meeting of the harbor committee. Peterson agreed that a meeting should be set up soon to bring IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips and others up to speed on the project. “We want to see it move forward,” said Peterson.

The city council is also expected to approve a revised redevelopment resolution, which would include the harbor area and the downtown. That move would make it possible for the city to potentially tap additional sources of public dollars.

Both parties to the deal say they want to move forward quickly. Kringstad said his group, which includes real estate consultant Jeremy Schoenfelder, founder and manager of Sienna Partners, and Mendota Heights-based architect Dewey Thorbeck, had originally hoped to have a groundbreaking by May, but indicated that’s probably a bit too optimistic given the long list of details that need to be worked out by then.

But design work on the project is already well underway, and Thorbeck presented impressive site concept drawings, building designs and floor plans for the townhomes to members of the harbor committee at their Feb. 18 meeting. The drawings are still very preliminary and weren’t released for public distribution at this point. But Kringstad said his team does want to have a public meeting once the deal is finalized to let city residents and others who are following the project learn more and provide input on the overall vision.

Sustainability

a key element

Kringstad and his team say they see sustainability as a key element of their plan, and they envision marketing Tower and future development in the city as part of the creation of a model city that could exemplify concepts like energy efficiency and alternative energy. According to Thorbeck the townhomes will be super-insulated, and will likely incorporate triple-pane glazing and solar panels. Those goals could be adjusted depending on construction costs, which haven’t been finalized. While a recent market study suggested strong demand for townhomes in the $275,000-$325,000 price range, Thorbeck said the prices for the designs he’s envisioning could come in just slightly above that price range.

But the developers see the sustainability concept, as well as the direct access to Lake Vermilion, as key selling points for potential buyers. Thorbeck said he and his wife are considering purchasing a unit themselves.

Future phases

While the initial focus remains on the townhome project, the development group is optimistic that interest will continue to grow once things start happening at the harbor. “Once we start turning dirt, we expect to see a lot of interest,” said Kringstad. Assuming the first phase is successful, the developers see a mix of commercial and residential development in future phases. Currently, they envision the second phase would be built just east of the townhomes, between the river and the former Iron Ore Bar. A third phase would encompass the sliver of land between the harbor’s north side and Hwy. 169. A fourth phase would move future development in the direction of the downtown.

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