The Bemidji City Council voted 4-2 to move forward with the clean-up of the Rail Corridor.
St. Paul Port Authority’s Monte Hilleman described Sanford Health’s desire to construct a Wellness Center at the brownfield site near Bemidji’s downtown as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The St. Paul Port Authority will move forward with investigating the 16-acre brownfield site, as Hilleman said that the Wellness Center is a much heavier structure than the affordable housing concept from 2017.
Additional soil borings will give engineers for the project more data points in different locations than the borings collected a few years ago, as far as how much weight the soil can withstand as well as contaminant issues.
Without any developers on board with the initial concept, Hilleman said the city did not apply for a Clean Up grant from Minnesota DEED, but with a developer and partners on board this time, success for the competitive grant is more likely.
Ward 4 councilmember Emelie Rivera, whose ward includes the Rail Corridor, posed concerns about gentrification of the area as well as traffic constraints.
Tim Marco from Kraus Anderson, the private developer for the project, emphasized that the company does not seek to build anything without community support.
At-large councilmember Dan Jourdain joined Rivera as the only nay votes on the site analysis plan and the memorandum of understanding with Kraus Anderson.
Councilmembers Josh Peterson, Audrey Thayer and Ron Johnson voted in favor, as did Mayor Jorge Prince.
The Sanford Health Wellness Center plan for the site includes two sheets of ice, an aquatics center, and numerous other recreational amenities and parking sites.
Sanford Health is responsible for half of the cost of the analysis. All findings, no matter the ultimate development of the site, would belong to the city.
Additional development of the site may include berms of semi-contaminated soil that would remain on-site, as well as possible multi-family housing units or mixed-use development.