Hoping for the best for the Sisters
Tim Clawson is a busy guy.
As the executive director of the Faribault County Development Corporation (FCDC), he helps the county and several cities in the county, including Blue Earth, with their economic development plans.
You see his name in the pages of the Faribault County Register all the time.
But, while he is very busy, Clawson did manage to get away this past summer for a vacation trip to the Canadian Rockies.
It was while he was traveling in the mountains of the Banff, Canada, area that he noticed three large mountains right in a row. Then he learned they were called The Three Sisters Hope, Faith and Charity.
He says he laughed at the irony of it. It seemed he couldn’t get away from being reminded of work even while on vacation.
You see, as part of his job, Clawson has been working hard on trying to get something done with those three empty buildings in downtown Blue Earth that are affectionately known as the Three Sisters.
Well, I guess referring to them as “empty” is not quite accurate. They are filled with both junk and various interesting items, including a number of pianos.
Clawson’s goal, as well as the goal of the city’s Economic Development Authority, the City Council, and almost every other person in Blue Earth, is to get those three buildings back into good use before it is too late.
They have been an eyesore for far too long.
You probably know the story.
Once upon a time they were a key part of downtown Blue Earth. The Sister to the south, let’s call her Hope, was once the home to a well-liked pharmacy, Fisher Drug, for many, many years. And it was the home to a bank, Wells Federal, before they moved down the street a number of years ago. Upstairs was the home of the local Masonic Lodge.
The other two sisters also had a variety of businesses in them over the years, with apartments upstairs.
But, then, the Three Sisters came under the ownership of Paul Amundson, of Frost, who ran a music store there, and a music museum. He had a variety of pianos, organs and other musical instruments in the buildings.
However, after a while, those businesses never seemed to be open.
Amundson either sold or traded the Sisters to a non-profit organization called the Hot Springs Citizens for Progress. They also owned several buildings in Hot Springs, South Dakota.
While that group said they wanted to save, preserve and fix up the buildings and then either sell or rent them out, they made little to no ‘progress’ despite having that word in their name.
Instead of fixing up the buildings, they were doing nothing and allowing the Sisters to deteriorate.
They also never paid any of the fees and fines imposed on them by the city. And were soon going to face roughly $9,000 in assessments per building due to the Main Street project.
The county recently took over ownership of the buildings for non-payment of those fees and fines, and now it appears the city (or its EDA) will take over ownership at a price of a buck apiece.
The city, of course, really doesn’t want to own them. As Clawson has said, the city and its EDA just want to control the Sisters’ destiny. In other words, the city wants to get them sold to private investors who will fix them up and actually do something with them.
They don’t want the buildings to fall into the hands of someone who will own them and not do a darn thing, other than use them for storage.
We’ve been down that road for the past eight years.
And, that is just what happened with the Avalon Center, as you may recall. The county took them over, sold it at an auction to a private individual, who never did a thing with it.
Until eventually the roof gave in, the county took it back, gave it to the city and the city had to pony up the money to tear it down.
The point is, we all hope something can be done so the same fate does not await those Three Sisters.
With a brand new, good-looking, downtown Main Street, and nearly every building downtown filled with a business, it would be a real shame if the Sisters can’t be saved, restored, and put to good use.
That is Tim Clawson’s goal. And should be everyone else’s, too.