When Northfield Veterinarian closed in March 2018, many wondered what would become of the historic buildings at 510 and 512 Division Street that housed the clinic.

The old veterinary building, which was built in 1905 and rebuilt in 1920, was used for everything from a hotel, a boarding house, a harness shop, a railroad office and an upholstery business before Northfield Veterinarian took over more than 50 years ago. However, after former veterinarian David Garlie surrendered his license following the review of a state licensing board, the community wondered what the property would be used for next.

The answer? A whole lot.

Cannon Valley Veterinary Clinic purchased the property in June 2018, and a project has been in the works for the last several months. Developer Mike Strobel — a veterinarian and part-owner at Cannon Valley Veterinary — said the finished space will include two spacious condominiums on the top floor, office space on the ground level and a climate-controlled storage space that can be rented in the basement. There are also tentative plans to open a vet clinic in the building, though the details are still up in the air.

“It’s going to be a nice building,” Strobel said. “It’ll be the most modern building on the street.”

Starting over

While the original plan was to renovate and expand the building, Strobel explained that it turned out to be too structurally unsound to move forward. Instead, they decided to demolish it and start over.

“We were going to remodel, but all the beams were rotten,” Strobel said. “We decided it’d be better to take it down and start over again.”

Strobel said they’re still determining exactly what will go inside, but the hope is to include a vet clinic that can offer quick services such as immunizations and wellness checks. Services such as surgeries and emergency care will remain at Cannon Valley Veterinarian’s main location at 1200 Hwy. 3 S in Northfield.

“We’re still playing with the idea of actually putting in a vet clinic downtown,” he said. “We’re considering putting something downtown for people to have walking access to that service. Right now, you have to drive up to the other [location]. We’ve had several people request that. With all the new apartments going in downtown, there’s a larger population entering the area. I don’t know yet… I don’t want to promise people something that I don’t know.”

The project also includes an improved pedestrian walkway along the south side of the building, including resurfacing the neighboring B&L Pizza building, as well as improving the parking lot behind the building and adding six additional parking spaces.

Preserving history

Strobel said one of the most important goals of the project was recreating the front of the building so that it looks like it did in the 1910s. This includes using the original brick that workers saved from the building when it was torn down.

Strobel has been working with Northfield’s Heritage Preservation Committee to ensure that the new building would fulfill all the requirements necessary for inclusion in the Northfield Historic District. Previous city planner Scott Tempel worked with Cannon Valley Veterinary on slight revisions of its original plan, with the newer plan approved unanimously by the HPC in May 2018.

“When [Cannon Valley Veterinary] initially came forward with the design in May 2018, the HCP really looked at that façade and how that incorporates with the downtown preservation guidelines,” said City Planner Mikayla Schmidt, who took over the project when she was hired in December 2019. “They had to come forward again when they decided that they were going to reconstruct the structure. It’s been a long process. It doesn’t always take this long, [but] this is a complex process.”

Strobel applied for the actual building permit in December 2019. He has brought the project back to the HPC any time a revision needed to be made, with the latest update approved just this June.

Schmidt said the city of Northfield strives to work with property owners and make the process as simple as possible when navigating requirements for the Northfield Historic District.

“We try to be responsive to the applicants and the property owners, because we know that they’re our investments into our downtown,” she said. “The city appreciates the reinvestment into the downtown streetscape and the buildings, and we know investment like that creates a sense of place that our downtown is known for. All those things offer jobs and dollars spent in the community. I think Northfield prides itself in that type of reinvestment, so I’m excited to see this project come forward.”

While it can be a lot of work to create something that will work for both the property owner and the HPC, Schmidt said that it’s important to ensure that Northfield’s picturesque downtown is preserved.

“[The downtown district] is Northfield’s heritage, and it creates that sense of place, [which is] what makes Northfield so special,” Schmidt explained. “I think people in our community really appreciate and like and are here because of that. It’s very unique. From a reinvestment standpoint, preserving the buildings and having that cultural significance that gets to carry on for generations is important, too.”

Moving right along

According to Strobel, the goal is to finish the building’s exterior by the end of summer. Work on the roof began in mid-July. But he said he’s not sure how quickly the interior will be finished, since it depends on the demand for the space. This is partly because of the COVID-19 situation, since people might be wary about moving with everything happening across the state and country.

“COVID-19 has changed things a bit,” Strobel said. “It’s harder to make decisions right now. It depends on how long we’re locked down. If we can’t get tenants, we probably won’t finish the interior side of the building right away. I can’t imagine that anyone’ll want to get into a new building if there’s [another] stay-at-home order.”

Strobel doesn’t have an exact cost for the project, but he estimates it’ll end up somewhere around $750,000.

Whatever it ends up costing and whenever it’s finished, there’s one thing Strobel is certain of: it’ll be an impressive and long-lasting addition to Division Street when it’s complete.

“It’ll be there for another 100 years,” he said.

“I’m really excited to see the final product,” Schmidt added. “I think it’s going to be a really nice addition to downtown. It’s going to continue to add that vibrancy that we love about Northfield.”

Grace Brandt is a freelance reporter based in Mankato.

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