The dynamics of the business world are such that an entity either improves or starts to decline. There is no such thing as standing still.
That truism came to mind with the good news that developers are looking at building a 65,000-square-foot grocery store at the site of the vacant Montgomery Ward at the East Brainerd Mall.
Brainerd's first mall, built by Joe and Kay Gustafson in the late 1960s, has a special place in the retail history of the Brainerd area. It has weathered a few storms as Brainerd and Baxter grew and the retail picture evolved to include a competing mall on the Baxter-Brainerd border. Losing Montgomery Ward in January of 1999 was obviously a big blow, but if the new grocery store comes to fruition things could be looking up in east Brainerd.
Plans call for either a Cub Foods or County Market to anchor the west end of the East Brainerd Mall. In addition the mall would get a freshened-up facade with more windows, new signs and an improved parking lot.
East Brainerd residents are crossing their fingers in hopes the project becomes a reality, realizing that no documents have been signed on the tentative plan.
Brainerd city officials at the May 10 Economic Development Authority meeting were enthusiastic about the project. City Administrator Dan Vogt said that moving fast on the deal would be to everyone's benefit. The city's role is likely to include providing tax-increment financing for the project.
The East Brainerd Mall location is still attractive for retailers, serving as a gateway to the booming Crosslake area, the airport and the Cuyuna Range communities.
The recent location of a Universal Pensions Inc. office at the old Pamida site brought about 160 potential shoppers to the east side of town -- a move that could bode well for rejuvenation of the East Brainerd Mall.
The city of Brainerd will no doubt move as expeditiously as it can to pave the way for this vital economic project.
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