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Building changes

By Staff | Nov 24, 2008

Filling four empty commercial sites on Blue Earth’s Main Street may happen in the near future.

Public Works Department employees have started cleaning out the ‘Kramer Building’ at the intersection of West Fifth and North Main streets.

And, Hot Springs Citizens for Progress from South Dakota has purchased the buildings owned by Paul Amundson at Seventh and Main Street.

City Administrator Kathy Bailey says city workers removed seven vehicles from the ‘Kramer Building’ and attempts are being made to contact the owners.

Bailey says the state’s Department of Health has provided a list of contractors licensed to remove asbestos. She says she mailed out 15 letters to companies and has received half a dozen responses so far.

“It’s in terrible condition. That’s putting it mildly,” Bailey says. “Demolition is probably our only option.”

The property has been an “eyesore” for sometime and city officials have discussed whether repairs to the roof and the building itself would be money well spent. In 2006, it cost $4,000 to board up broken windows.

Bailey says the city does have funds to tear down the building. She says asbestos materials adds to the cost, estimated to be around $50,000.

“I’ve seen buildings in better shape than this collapse. I fear for the roof’s condition of that building,” she adds.

If the city decides to raze the building, one group has already expressed interest in the site.

Jim Beattie says the Blue Earth Theater Foundation still wants to build a movie theater in the city and they want to be put at the top of the list for the ‘Kramer Building’ site.

Beattie says his group has been organized as a non-profit corporation and is seeking tax-exempt status so it can qualify for grants and federal funding.

“I would argue we are the most viable alternative for that site. It’s the only site in downtown Blue Earth that could possibly work,” Beattie recently told the city EDA board.

The foundation envisions an old-style theater with a neon marquee and seating capacity of 200 to 300.

Beattie says foundation members visited a theater built in Lake Mills, Iowa, that cost $450,000.

“Our goal is not to raise any money to clean up the site. Every dollar we raise we want to go to brick and mortar,” he says.

In order to obtain federal funds, the theater would be a multi-arts facility — that would include an art gallery and allow live-performances.

“The theater will be a way to try and revitalize downtown Blue Earth and bring people to Main Street,” Beattie says.

Meanwhile, the executive director and president of the Hot Springs organization says papers have been filed with the state so they are able to operate in Minnesota.

Robert Johnson says his group is considered a non-profit charity with 501C3 status.

“Our mission is to buy buildings, save them and maintain them. We’re not a fly-by-night group that bought these buildings and then will do nothing,” Johnson says.

Once Hot Springs Citizens for Progress gets the go-ahead from the state, one of its first duties will be to determine if the structures have any historic value.

Johnson says once an assessment is made the group will know what funding sources are available and a budget and plans can then be developed.

In addition to the Blue Earth buildings, Hot Springs Citizens for Progress also purchased a building in Hot Springs, a house in Custer, S.D., and 10 acres of land from Amundson.

The Chamber of Commerce, local historical society and the mayor have been contacted, adds Johnson.

Don’t look for any improvements to start anytime soon. Building and safety codes and any local ordinances will have to be researched before any upgrading can begin.

Johnson says he doesn’t see anything happening until 2010, but that timetable is subject to change.

“We aren’t in a hurry to do anything. Every town has a vision of what their needs are for their downtown,” he says. ” We don’t want to fight with them. We want to give them what they want … something that will benefit the community.”