As the process to renovate and revitalize the old Rueb 'N' Stein buildings in downtown Northfield proves exceedingly expensive, Reunion developers find themselves with a financing gap.
And since much of the added costs are related to bringing the late-1800s and early-1900s buildings to code while preserving their historic status, the team thought it made sense to knock on the city's door for its loan request. The group on Thursday was granted a $100,000 loan from the Northfield Economic Development Authority; the loan carries a 20-year term with a 5.25 percent interest rate.
"There is a laundry list of things that we feel these funds are helping to provide for us. A lot of these items are related to code and regulation updates," said Joshua Drivdahl, one of seven investors/developers of Reunion, a restaurant and entertainment venue set to go in at 503, 504 and 505 Division St.
Drivdahl added, "This building has been the same use for 40-plus years. No code changes were forced upon the building. When we took over, everything had to be brought up to code."
Plans for the final product include two bars, two patios, a restaurant with a wood-fire grill and an entertainment space. The name, Reunion, is an ode to the place many Northfielders have gathered for years.
“Rueb ‘N’ Stein, Corner Bar, they were here for almost 50 years,” co-developer Brett Reese said in April. “Now we hope to take it another 50 years.”
Reunion will take advantage of the lower and upper floors of all three buildings, which are each narrow and long. Plans are for the space to flow from one section to the next with openings in the walls to make it feel like one, multi-activity business.
Beyond the interior spaces, the team also hopes to create a two-level patio. The upper patio will occupy the existing deck behind the middle building, while the lower patio will take the space behind the northernmost building.
The front of the building will also see a makeover, meaning no more maroon Rueb ‘N’ Stein awnings. The buildings will keep their character, as required in the Northfield Historic District, but each will carry its own unique look, according to the developers.
Storefront enhancement was one of the biggest undertakings, according to Drivdahl.
"We rebuilt all that," he said. "We had to work with the local (Heritage Preservation Commission), plus the state and federal ones. It's going to look great and historical, but there were significant costs."
Other significant costs were to rebuild the sidewalk in front of the buildings, rebuild the alley behind the buildings to make room for the patio spaces, install a lift inside the building and add a sprinkler system throughout.
EDA member Mike Strobel was curious why the developers came to the city for a loan when they could've potentially reached out for an extra commercial loan.
"There is a need for gap financing," co-developer Reese said. "The cost started here and went up to here and then here when we pulled back more layers. And then it's just the collaboration, partnership aspect. Premier Bank is supporting it, then the investors and we thought it would be good to work with the city."
As part of the loan request, developers indicated the restaurant would hire 23 to 27 full-time employees, ranging from minimum wage (plus tips) to $15 per hour and some salaried management positions.
Some authority members at the Jan. 24 meeting also encouraged the developers to make as many local product connections as possible. Member Andrew Ehrmann, who runs his own small farm, said he'd be happy to help the restaurant, which has already committed to at least some locally sourced food, get set up with more local providers.
"I’d like to feel so good about the food you’re serving that I can recommend your restaurant to all of my customers," he said.
According to Reese in an interview Tuesday, developers hope Reunion will open in April and no later than May 1. Though a late loan from the EDA was needed, Reese said all is well with the project moving forward.
"It’s a good plan, a good product and financially sound," he said. "For me, this is economic development at its best. Good participation that’s going to create a lot of jobs, increase property taxes and bring something pretty cool to the community."