OWATONNA — Despite the recent resurgence of life in downtown Owatonna, there is still a fair amount of empty buildings littered along the streets.
After a roof collapsed and a front wall blew out over the winter in a small, vacant building on Main Street, the City of Owatonna ended up in possession of the property.
“We had put up a false wall and tried to work with the owner to get the necessary repairs done, but we had little movement with that property owner,” said Troy Klecker, the community development director for the city. “Because he either didn’t have the means or was not willing to make the repairs, the City ended up acquiring the property.”
During a study session on Tuesday, Klecker and the Owatonna City Council discussed options for what to do with the building — located at 148 W. Main Street, directly east of the Just One More bar — which has become nothing less of an eyesore on the street.
Klecker presented three options to the city council for the building and their accompanying price tags: demolish the building and turn the property into a gravel lot for $98,000, replace the false wall with a permanent one and renovate the area to include a patio for $180,000, or build the entire building back out to the sidewalk with other necessary renovation for $223,000. The second and third option would allow the City to either sell or lease the space, according to Klecker.
“Typically, we don’t get involved with these situations until we have to,” Klecker added. “In this case, the roof as already collapsed, or at least has a lot of natural skylights, so we really should do something with it.”
The council agreed that they did not want to see another gravel lot or any type of pocket park pop up in that location, so the demolition of the building was essentially taken of the table for the discussion. Council member Nate Dotson stated that he preferred the idea of the renovations that included a patio space for a potential retailer or restaurant to occupy.
“The location has great visibility,” Klecker said. “But it’s not great for parking.”
The area does not have any off-street parking, but there are a couple public parking lots in close proximity.
Council member Jeff Okerberg questioned if the City needed to do anything with the property or if they could just simply list it for sale. Klecker stated that the building has been for sale for a couple of years and has received zero interest — even before the additional damage.
“No one is looking at that and saying ‘I want to buy that thing,’” Klecker asserted. “When people look at something they have to be able to see their business there, and right now, with the condition the building is in, it’s hard to picture it. We could sit back and wait, but that is done a lot and nothing happens. I think we need to just do something.”
Because it is too late in the year for construction to start before winter, Council member Kevin Raney suggested that they get a mock-up of what the building could look like with one of the renovation options and post that along with the listing for the site. Once spring comes. if there has been no buyers interested. he suggested the city could then begin renovations.
“I would want to get to this first thing in the spring,” Klecker said, adding that he would like the council to consider the options and make a decision on what the City will do with the building within the next few months. “Toward the end of the year I’d like to have an idea of what we’re doing.”
The council members agreed that they would like to see something cover the false wall for the time being to make the appearance a bit more attractive to the public. Council member Doug Voss said that he will look into getting something in the works for a possible outdoor laminate that could withstand the winter.