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Wendy Reuer, Published January 11 2013

Dilworth offering free land on main drag to attract new business

DILWORTH – Entrepreneurs have a shot at free land here if they can convince the city their business would be a good fit for the community.

City leaders are requesting business proposals for the lot on the 100 block of Center Avenue in downtown Dilworth.

The best proposal will be rewarded with a free piece of land and what could be up to $24,000 in state Border City Tax Credits for up to five years. The Border City tax credit can be used to off-set Minnesota income taxes.

Proposals – due to the city by March 15 – will be evaluated using eight criteria:

• Compatibility with area.

• Feasibility.

• Timetable.

• Jobs it could create.

• Increased tax base.

• Parking impact.

• Accessibility.

• Aesthetics.

The lot is 75 feet wide by 140 feet deep, according to city records, and sits just east of the Willie’s Café and Bar.

Mayor Chad Olson said the opportunity to attract business has been an exciting venture since he and City Council members approved the plan last year.

Olson said the city is mostly looking for a viable business that would be a good fit with the long-standing likes of the Hi-Ho Tavern, JC’s Corral Bar and Mills Lounge, which also line Dilworth’s main street.

“We want something that can also be there in 20 or 30 years,” Olson said. “We’re looking for something that will become a mainstay in Dilworth.”

Hi-Ho Tavern and Mills Lounge are owned by Councilman Rick Cariveau.

The empty lot was once home to the Hi-Ho, which has served the area’s favorite burgers – as voted on by Forum readers – since 1947.

Cariveau’s parents bought the business in 1960 and moved the tavern to its current home at 10 Center Ave. E., in 1969. Cariveau took over the business in 1977.

Center Street, which doubles as U.S. Highway 10, is a main road out of the Fargo-Moorhead area en route to Minnesota’s Lakes country. Businesses along the city’s main drag are highly visible to passers-by.

Although the street gives businesses high visibility, it also creates limited space for parking. Olson said a business hoping to move to the lot will have to take the limited parking space into consideration.

Cariveau said he has no preference for what type of business could move into the area, as long as it follows city regulations and can handle the parking limitations.

City planner Stan Thurlow said the city deliberately left the list of possible businesses wide open.

“When you think about a downtown area, there are hundreds of things that would work: a bakery, real estate, dental, a photography studio, any kind of main street business you can think of in a central business district,” Thurlow said. “I’m kind of curious what the proposals will be.”

Dilworth officials have long worked to attract businesses and residents. Last year, the city of about 4,000 issued permits for 17 new homes valued at

$3.5 million, and six new businesses: Maurices, Rick Halvorson Storage Units, DaVita Dialysis, Dilworth Auto Plaza and CVS.

Since 2010, the city has offered nearly $10,000 in tax abatements and $2,000 in utilities and incentives for homebuilders in the Summerwood addition.

Craig Whitney, Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce president, said Dilworth’s innovate approach is creative.

“I applaud the city for doing it. I think this is a great way to do it,” he said.

Although Whitney said he can’t recall another city actually giving away land, he said all metro cities work on incentives to draw businesses to the area.

Thurlow said he is crossing his fingers the latest effort to draw businesses to the lot will stick. A few years ago, the city priced the lot at $50,000 in hopes of luring in business proposals, he said.

The city received proposals and selected a photography shop, but the proprietor dropped out before they were finalized, Thurlow said.

Olson realizes the city is taking a risk offering free land as an incentive, but believes it will pay off in the long run.

“It’s a big risk. If this doesn’t’ work out …” said Olson, his voice trailing off. “We’re fully behind any business to be successful.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530