The recent sale of a 3-acre, wooded parcel clears the way for local developers to build a new commercial complex in northeast Rochester.

A group led by Mike and A.J. Hawkins, a father and son real estate investment partnership, purchased a chunk of land sandwiched between the CMX Chateau movie theater and a US Bank branch on East Circle Drive on Friday for a reported $480,000.

They bought it from Winona-based Merchants Bank, which had owned it since 2006. Merchants bought the land for $800,000 from Virginia Bigelow.

Jeff R. Brown of North Rock Real Estate represented Merchants in the deal and A.J. Hawkins represented his group.

Hawkins says the plan is to construct a 13,000-square-foot mixed-use building on the site. He hopes to break ground by late summer with work moving ahead in the fall.

“We’re still talking to potential tenants to put the pieces together. It could be a restaurant, office and retail mix,” said Hawkins.

He said they anticipate having four to five tenants in the center.

For Merchants Bank, selling the property was a better fit for the bank’s current growth strategy than building another branch, said Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat.

“We were fairly new to the Rochester market (when Merchants purchased the land). The leadership at the time thought since Rochester was a booming market that we should think long term and look to acquire land,” said Savat.

Then Merchants started several years of growth through a number of acquisitions of area banks and branches.

“That became our focus in that time frame … then we got some new leadership that asked the hard question, ‘Do we need more locations?’” she said. “We decided to start thinking about an exit strategy for that piece of land, in particular.”

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in Heard on the Street. Send tips or questions to

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