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Dave Olson, Published June 10 2013

Fergus Falls aims to confirm Kirkbride development hopefuls

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – The Fergus Falls City Council will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday to evaluate whether efforts to save the city’s landmark Kirkbride building will involve one developer or a team of two.

Earlier this spring, the Colonnade Design Group from the Twin Cities and Historic Properties Inc., a private real estate developer based in Norcross, Ga., presented ideas for new ways to use the former Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center.

The former treatment center’s main building, the Kirkbride, is a sprawling edifice that was built in the 1890s as a state hospital for the mentally ill.

The structure, which in recent years has sat empty, is under the threat of demolition unless a use can be found.

Enter Colonnade Design Group.

The company has unveiled what it calls “The Spa at Kirkbride,” a plan that includes a resort hotel with a ballroom, retail space, a museum and artist studios.

Historic Properties has informed the city that it, too, is interested in doing something with the Kirkbride, including housing and restaurants, and possibly a boutique hotel.

The two groups told the city they signed a letter of understanding stating they will work together to produce a master plan for the property.

However, city officials say it is unclear just how committed the organizations are to a joint effort, and City Administrator Mark Sievert said the goal of Wednesday’s meeting is to pin down the situation.

“We either anticipate having documentation from the developers that they are going to work together jointly on a project, or if they do not come to an agreement on that, then we anticipate evaluating one proposal against the other and selecting one,” Sievert said.

He said based on correspondence he saw late last week, it appears the developers will work together.

“That could certainly change,” Sievert said, “but right now that’s how they intend to move forward.”

Sievert said despite the uncertainty, things appear to be looking bright for those concerned about the Kirkbride’s future.

“These are the most qualified and most realistic developers we’ve had come along, so I think there is certainly reason for optimism,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555