Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Not ideal, but Ralphs gets a fair shake

If this is a double post, I apologize. The blog's not working so well today.

Kudos to City Manager Bruce Messelt for finding an option to the city claiming eminent domain. He took the time to come up with a deal that will put the decision to keep Ralphs in it's present location, where it belongs, with the owners of the business. It's not ideal, but fair. He seems to realize that buildings only hold the true asset to the city, the businesses inside them.

City to buy out Ralph's
By Dave Roepke,The Forum
Published Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The owner of Ralph's Corner bar agreed Monday to a city buyout offer, adding the final piece to a block of downtown property Moorhead plans to sell to a developer.
The deal was sealed a few hours before the City Council was to consider starting the process of condemning the bar.
Council members instead approved an option agreement selling the building and the land it sits on to the city for $250,000, plus $8,500 for owner Don Wood to relocate his above-the-bar apartment.
If the Wood family decides it wants to continue operating Ralph's in the same location, the eventual developer of the property will take them up on the offer, City Manager Bruce Messelt said.
"That's a perfect world for the developer," Messelt said.
Mike Wood, Don Wood's son, said his family has operated the bar at 23 4th St. S. for 47 years and hopes to continue doing so in a new or renovated facility, as long as it's financially feasible.
"It's going to be a bottom- line decision. I've got my dad and my uncle to worry about. I've got employees to worry about," Wood said. "Talk to us next April, and we'll see how it works out."
According to the option agreement, Ralph's can stay in the current building rent-free until April 1, the day the sale will be official.
Wood said the family will have until then to consider its options: stay at the current location in a renovated or new facility, move to a new location or close.
"It's always been our first and foremost intention to stay here, but the numbers have to make sense," he said.
The cost of renovating the bar has been estimated as high as $800,000, Messelt said.
Ralph's would be an ideal anchor for the development area, said Peter Doll, the city's manager of developmental services.
"I can't imagine that a developer wouldn't give them a good offer because they would be the anchor," he said.
Doll, one of the city officials who spent Monday in off-and-on deliberations with the Woods, said the possibility of the city condemning the bar brought the negotiations to a head.
The council voted in June to push for the renovation or redevelopment of the row of five businesses on the west side of Fourth Street South.
Four of the owners quickly struck deals with the city. By August, Ralph's was the lone holdout.
Because it was the last day to apply for state grants to help pay for clearing the development site, the city set Monday as the deadline for the Woods to either sell or have a city-approved renovation plan.
If no deal was in place, the city needed to start condemnation proceedings to qualify for the grants, which could be worth as much as $500,000.
"We didn't want to lose another construction season," Messelt said.
Council members who were to decide whether to begin condemning the property instead voted unanimously to accept the buyout agreement.
"I'm not sure if this council can do the wave, but if we could, we would," Councilwoman Lauri Winterfeldt-Shanks said.
At Ralph's, patrons were buzzing Monday with news of a possible deal, as they have for months, said Manager J. Earl Miller.
"It's the same thing: What's going to happen, what's going to happen, what's going to happen," Miller said. "The problem is, we don't know."
Including the Ralph's buyout, the city has spent about $730,000 purchasing the block of land.
Next week city officials will begin talking about what to do with it.
While the city is certain to sell the property to a developer, council members will begin discussing the terms, conditions and expectations for the redevelopment Monday.
"If we do not, we will be underwhelmed," Messelt said.
The city could have a developer chosen as early as February, he said.

I still think a west wall renovation of the properties would have cost less than the $730,000 in buyouts, but what do I know, I'm only a taxpayer.


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