The Brainerd Economic Development Authority today gave conceptual approval on a 3-1 vote for tax increment financing to a development company looking to renovate the East Brainerd Mall.
The EDA also passed a motion that the city-owned land in front of J.C. Penney would only sell at the appraised value, which five years ago was $300,000.
Oppidan Inc., a merchant development company out of Minnetonka, presented a plan to the EDA to bring Cub Foods into the space vacated by Montgomery Ward in 1999 as well as renovate the mall, the same strategy United Properties proposed in May 2000.
Oppidan's preliminary plans also call for the demolition of the mall space between what would be Cub Foods and J.C. Penney to make room for stores accessed from the outside. There would also be plans for buildings on the south side of the East Brainerd Mall parking lot.
Brainerd Council member and EDA member Bob Olson, who voted no, was against the conceptual approval for Oppidan's TIF application because of interest the Brainerd School District has expressed in the property for school space and possibly even a fine arts center.
"I want the city council to give the school district the opportunity to explore options with the mall," Olson said. "It's too early not to allow them to explore their options."
Olson said having a school on the East Brainerd Mall site could jump-start urban renewal development in that part of Brainerd.
"If the school buys this land it would be a win-win situation for the city, the school and neighborhood," Olson said.
Paul Bloom, the Brainerd School District's community education director, said the school district was interested in purchasing the East Brainerd Mall.
"The mall has good potential (for an educational facility), a good location, is lots of space and the price was reasonable," said Bloom.
Bloom said school district officials talked with the owners to express their interest and got the feeling that the owners were going to sell it to someone else and would like to keep the mall for retail business.
The school district leases 8,000 square feet for its Early Childhood Family Education program. Bloom said he talked with the Minnetonka company about whether the school district could continue to lease space if the company buys the mall.
If the company does not agree to let the district lease the space at the mall the school district will be forced to find another site for its ECFE program.
"We don't want to cause any trouble," said Bloom. "We saw an opportunity and we expressed our interest. If it is a better deal for the city to have this building then we support that."
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