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The buildings of Faribault County

By Staff | Jun 17, 2018

We devote a lot of time, space and ink to give you stories about buildings; specifically buildings in the small towns of Faribault County.

Our big city newspaper friends are probably surprised at that, but in small towns, buildings can be big news. Our big city friends are also probably shocked to learn that buildings are often bought and sold in a small town for one buck.

It is true. Sometimes it is the city buying the building for a dollar, and often a city will sell one for a dollar, just to get it back into use and on the tax roll.

Take those now infamous Three Sisters in Blue Earth. I suspect you may be getting tired of seeing them on the front page of the Register nearly every week. But, the saga of the Sisters has been ongoing for 10 years or more, and I suspect it will be another couple years before we are done writing about them.

In a nutshell, the city of Blue Earth and the Blue Earth Economic Development Authority (EDA) now own them, and seem to be willing to sell them to someone for $1 each for a total of $3, if the someone has a plan to remodel and fix them up and put them to good use.

Currently that someone is a group called Rural Renaissance Project, Inc.

I know what you are thinking. You thought it was someone named Janie Hanson and her company Connect the Grey. So did I. Turns out Connect the Grey is a business consulting group started by Hanson in 2014, which is assisting the Rural Renaissance Project people in their plan to acquire the Three Sisters and spend a lot of money and turn them into three beautifully remodeled buildings in downtown Blue Earth.

Hanson is the CEO of Connect the Grey, but also is part of the group which formed the Rural Renaissance Project, a non-profit company. Their goal is to create a resurgence of interest in rural small towns, and the Three Sisters project would become a model of what can be done with buildings in small towns.

Again, I wish them well and hope they can succeed in this lofty goal.

There are other buildings in the news here besides those Three Sisters, of course.

There are currently three new buildings under construction in Blue Earth, and that is pretty exciting news.

The new Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center and Giant Museum is well underway, with the walls now going up. Then there is the new Public Works Department building being built on the site of the former Blue Earth liquor store. And out in the Golden Spike Business Park, BENCO Electric Cooperative has started work on their new building, near Kibble Equipment.

Then there is a new restaurant in Winnebago, located in a building that had been empty for quite a long while. It was totally remodeled and looks very nice. And in Wells, the City Council has their own version of the Three Sisters, the former Paragon Bank building, which they now own. The question is, what can they do with it either sell it to a business to use, or move some city offices there. They are looking for ideas and proposals. I would think there would be many ideas for the building, which appears to be quite modern.

Buildings in small towns can be assets or liabilities. New construction is great, but old buildings are more of a problem.

If they can be remodeled and put to good use, they can be a wonderful asset. If they are empty and literally falling down, they can be a huge liability. We have both kinds in Faribault County. Old and new. Usable ones and others that need to go away.

Every town in the county is faced with old, empty buildings. Blue Earth, Winnebago, and others, have had to demolish several over the past recent years.

Now Wells is going to acquire another one, the Bidne building, and get it demolished. They will probably pay $1 for it from the owner, but will also have to pony up about $4,000 in back taxes as well.

It needs to be done. The roof is going to soon cave in and since it shares a common wall with the building next door, it can potentially damage that neighboring occupied site.

All of this information about buildings and the costs involved is important for our readers, the citizens and taxpayers of the county, to know about.

How much public money is involved in the new construction, or the remodeling costs, or the demolition expense.

And that is why we will keep on writing stories about the buildings of Faribault County.

Including those Blue Earth Sisters.