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Public to have say on fate of Stewartville Star building

STEWARTVILLE — The fate of the Star building in downtown Stewartville will be the subject of a public hearing tonight at city hall.

The building sits on the corner of Minnesota Highway 30 and U.S. 63 and was built in 1900 as First National Bank. After several owners and uses, the city of Stewartville purchased the building in 2003 from Sandy Forstner, who had moved the Stewartville Star newspaper into the structure in 1993.

At the time, the city used $130,000 from a retiring tax increment financing district to purchase the building, City Finance Director Barb Neubauer said Monday. The city council, at the time, agreed to pay that money back, with 5 percent interest, to the city Economic Development Authority over 10 years. Neubauer said there is still $33,671 outstanding on that debt.

Since 2004, the city has earned $125,160 in revenue by leasing the Star building and has paid $18,616 in property taxes, $9,952 in maintenance and $134,685 on the debt, for a net loss of $38,093. These figures do not include insurance on the building, which is included in the city’s overall insurance premium.

The city has not had an estimate on how much it would cost to modernize the building. However, Neubauer said, people who have looked at the building have indicated it needs extensive work.


The building had a "for sale" sign in the window for about a year, but there was little interest from prospective buyers, City Administrator Bill Schimmel said in a previous interview.

In September, on a recommendation from the Economic Development Authority, the city council decided to sell the building for $1 to someone who would renovate it up to city standards.

EDA members took bids and approved a bid by Nicole and Nels Pierson. The couple have renovated a similar building at 318 Broadway in Rochester. That building contains the Impiana Kitchen and Sushi Bar on the first floor, an office on the second floor and a loft on the third floor.

The deal was presented to the council earlier this month, but a vote was delayed until after Tuesday's public hearing.

Council member Judy Hanson opposes the sale.

In a letter copied to the Post-Bulletin, she states, "The purchase agreement presented by the EDA to Council was sorely lacking in producing a new business for Stewartville, guaranteeing any rehabilitation work would be done, or that the tax assessment would increase. In fact, the City has spent thousands of dollars on advertising and attorney fees that will not be recouped."

Hanson also questions grants the EDA has made to various businesses in town to improve the appearance of their buildings and asks if this money would have been better spent on the Star building.

The hearing is scheduled during the regular council meeting at 7 p.m. today in city hall.

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