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The Landing closes on $1.6 million purchase for future day center

A former Rochester pawn shop will be converted into a facility to help people struggling with homelessness.

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The Landing MN's mobile outreach unit is parked next to the former National Pawn Shop, 426 Third Ave. SE, Friday morning after the nonprofit purchased the building to house a future day center for people struggling with homelessness.
Randy Petersen/ Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — The Landing MN has officially purchased the site for its new day center to serve people facing homelessness.

The $1.6 million purchase of the former National Pawn Shop, 426 Third Ave. SE, was finalized Thursday, June 30, 2022, following a delay connected to the discovery of an oil separator tank found on the site that was once used for auto repair.

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“In my mind, it’s been a month's delay,” Landing co-founder Dan Fifield said, estimating the center will likely be operational by the end of September.

“I hope it’s sooner than that,” he added.

The original price of the former pawn shop was $1.85 million, but the sellers — SRA Properties LLC of Sioux Falls, Minnesota, and Fretty Family Properties LLC, of Fairmont, Minnesota — agreed to consider the $250,000 difference as a donation to the nonprofit that has been providing services to people struggling with homelessness.

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Fifield said the discovery of the oil tank in May added to the expense of the purchase, due to the need for added environmental study, but the review gave the building a clean bill of health and plans call for filling in the tank when flooring is replace in the back portion of the building, which will house the primarily gathering place for visitors.

The nonprofit’s operations moved out of the city-owned Silver Lake Station in April, and The Landing staff has been working with Rochester’s Salvation Army in recent months to offer extended daytime services in the Social Services Center at 115 First Ave. NE.

Fifield and Salvation Army Director of Community Engagement Rebecca Snapp said the joint operation is slated to end in mid-August, but the agreement was created with the potential for an extension.

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Snapp said the current partnership appears to be working well for the organizations’ shared clients, so extending would make sense.

Fifield agreed, but said he’s excited to move to the next phase of operations.

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Renovation plans sit inside the former National Pawn Shop on Friday, July 1, 2022.
Randy Petersen/ Post Bulletin

The Landing has submitted site development plans for city approval with no obvious objections cited during department reviews.

Applications for building permits connected to nearly $700,000 in anticipated renovations and upgrades are also under review, but cannot be issued until the overall plan gets the green light.

Fifield said he’s confident, but cautious, that the city review will move forward and allow work to start soon, and he anticipates the final cost of the building purchase and renovations will land between $2.3 million and $2.5 million.

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So far, he said the organization has had to spend approximately $715,000 to get in the doors for the former pawn shop.

“We’re still looking at a major fund-raising campaign,” he said, adding that details will be announced after the Fourth of July holiday.

Once renovations are complete, plans call for the day center to include a full commercial kitchen, three medical exam rooms, restrooms and showers, laundry facilities and office space, as well as an area for people to gather throughout the day.

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The Landing MN's director of social services, Alex Hurlebaus, works Friday, july 1, 2022, on mapping out future walls for the organization's new day center, which will include medical exam rooms and offices on the street side of the building and a day room and services in the back half of the former pawn shop.
Randy Petersen/ Post Bulletin

Current operation hours could be extended to make sure there isn’t a gap between services provided by The Landing and the nearby Rochester Community Warming Center at 200 Fourth St. SE, but Fifield said specifics haven’t been finalized.

The Landing currently operates with 14 full- and part-time staff members, and Alex Hurlebaus, the organization’s director of social services, said the number could increase to 19 with the new facility.

In addition to paid staff, the organization has approximately 600 registered volunteers, with a reported core group of 50 being most active.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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