Online Auctions

The City Council on Tuesday discussed the potential purchase of VP Online Auctions, 55 Willow St. The land is adjacent to property the city already owns and hopes will be redeveloped for residential. (Suzanne Rook/southernminn.com)

The city of Faribault could soon be the proud owner of another 1.4 acres on Willow Street, a purchase that could make redevelopment of the area even more appealing.

The City Council discussed the possible purchase during a closed meeting Tuesday as allowed by state law.

City Administrator Tim Murray on Thursday said the council made no decision on the property, though it was the first time it discussed buying the land, now home to VP Online Auctions. According to its website, the business “offers a local, safe and secure way to conduct your online transactions.” The website and a sign on its front door list the business as being for sale. The site’s last online sale closed May 26.

The property abuts about 3 acres the city has owned since 1988 and another 6.3 acres that the city purchased in September 2019 from Dianne and Dwight Lockerby Jr. The Lockerby-owned property had been home to Lockerby Sheet Metal which closed abruptly in October 2018.

Following the purchase of the former Lockerby site, the city quickly signed an agreement with a developer to construct a 69-unit apartment building on the site, which sits just west of the Straight River and south of the viaduct. But after the project didn’t secure tax credits from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, the developer pulled out of the project.

The city and the council remain committed to seeing the site enhanced. In a July 13 memo to the council, Community and Economic Development Director Deanna Kuennen noted “the city’s desire to redevelop the property in such a way that it implement the Downtown Master Plan, becoming a catalyst for future investment in the downtown.”

A draft document seeking redevelopment proposals for the site highlights the need to incorporate public parking as well as overflow parking for a new park north of the viaduct, an extension of the existing trail system and connections to the area to other community amenities, according to Kuennen’s report.

While Kuennen, during the July 13 council meeting, discussed apartments or a mix of rental and owner-occupied housing on the site, several council members suggested they’d happily consider a hotel.

Rental housing continues to be at a premium in Faribault, along with the rest of Rice County, with a vacancy rate hovering near 1%.

The draft document indicated a Sept. 28 selection of a developer, but that date needs to be pushed back at least slightly as the council hasn’t yet given the necessary approvals. Unless it convenes a special meeting, the council isn’t scheduled to meet again until Aug. 10.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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