Carlton County Board hears site proposal details from retail development group

Members of the Carlton County Committee of the Whole received an appeal on Tuesday from one of the site contenders vying for the proposed county health and human services building.

Members of the Carlton County Committee of the Whole received an appeal on Tuesday from one of the site contenders vying for the proposed county health and human services building.

Jeff Draxten, president and CEO of Real Estate Corporation of America (RE-Cor) of Wayzata, along with John Fedo of HOK, an engineering firm working with RE-Cor, outlined for members of the committee a proposal to make space available for the county government building in one corner of a major retail development the firm is planning just south of Cloquet.

Fedo told county officials the mammoth retail development being planned along Highway 33 and I-35 is "a work in progress," though he admitted it is "a tough site to develop" due to the necessity for extensive wetlands mitigation, issues relating to the pipeline and sewer line that currently run across it and other related issues.

"We nonetheless feel the site has major potential," Fedo said, "and we think we're headed toward a positive outcome, possibly within the next four to six weeks."

To that end, Fedo suggested the portion of land on one end of the development that has been identified as a possible site for the new county government building could come about "at a fairly minimal cost to the county."


"In fact, our vision is that the cost to the county would likely be zero," he stated.

Fedo went on to mention that since the county has considerable gravel reserves, there is the possibility that an agreement can be reached to make use of that gravel for the retail development project, saying some 250,000 to 1.2 million cubic yards of fill material will be needed, depending on how the site will be used.

He said RE-Cor is interested in working with the county to come up with an agreement regarding availability and cost of gravel.

"We hope you will work with us on this and then we can figure out what the price will be," said Fedo. "We can't get the project done if we can't access gravel."

The RE-Cor site proposal was ranked third among the five under consideration for the proposed county facility, which will house the health and human services departments, among others.

Fedo said RE-Cor was disappointed in its site ranking by Wold Architects and Engineers, a Twin Cities firm hired by the county to come up with a site recommendation for the facility.

He said part of the purpose he and Draxton were at Tuesday's meeting was to offer additional information in an effort to gain a higher priority for the RE-Cor site.

Among the additional benefits he mentioned were proximity to other services, a neighborhood setting with direct access to a major highway, and the possibility of the county utilizing excess wetlands credits left over from the balance incurred through the retail project.


Fedo said RE-Cor is projecting that some 730,000 square feet of retail space will be built along the high profile stretch, adding that several "big box retailers," as well as some smaller ones, have indicated their readiness to locate there.

He indicated the retail development has a potential tax impact of some $60-$180 million.

"We still have a big hole to fill on the lower part of the project," he said, suggesting the county building would be a great fit for that space, since it is in an area that would require the least mitigation.

He said the presence of the new county building would help provide an "on-site population" for the retail development as well as provide a nearby outlet for county staff members and those who travel there to access services.

Fedo said RE-Cor has met with officials of the Minnesota Department of Transportation to resolve access issues for the proposed retail development, which he said would improve traffic safety in the area of the existing crossover of Highway 33 South and possibly include bike path access as well to help relieve some of the traffic pressure.

"I can safely say you will see some movement on our project by late summer or early fall," Fedo concluded.

Fedo and Draxten requested to be notified of the time and date of the next site selection committee meeting which, according to County Personnel Department Head Mike Stafford, had not yet been set.

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