Friends fear hasty decisionPublished 11:38am Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The Friends of the Kirkbride have given tours of the Regional Treatment Center for nine years. Its members certainly have a vested interest in what happens with the future of the historic site.
They certainly don’t want to see it demolished.
“The goal always has been to save the building, and to create jobs,” said Maxine Schmidt, a Friends of the Kirkbride member. “We did want redevelopment and reuse of the building.”
Schmidt was one of a few members of the public who spoke at the special meeting of the Fergus Falls City Council June 12, when the council approved a letter of intent to work with Historic Kirkbride, LLC. The development group plans to put a hotel, apartments and restaurants on the RTC site, in an estimated $41.4 million proposal.
The council decided not to pursue a proposal from developer Terrence Scholz, who presented The Spa At Kirkbride with a luxury hotel, spa and medical facility.
Schmidt believes Scholz’ plan would have created more long-term, good paying jobs.
“I do feel that the council rushed into this decision,” Schmidt said. “They did not need to make a decision that night. I think they should’ve taken more time.”
Lois Josefson, a supporter of Friends of the Kirkbride, also spoke June 12 and asked the council to hold off on a decision. The meeting was called so Ray Willey, of Historic Kirkbride and the Georgia company Historic Properties, could meet a deadline to apply for a tax credit needed for his original proposal for low-income housing, according to Josefson.
Since that deadline wasn’t necessary anymore with the confirmation of a hotel for Historic Kirkbride, Josefson said there was no cause for the council to act that night. The council was concerned with “enabling and supporting Historic Properties,” Josefson said.
Still, Schmidt is pleased redevelopment of the RTC is moving forward, and she said she doesn’t want “to sound like a wet blanket.” She is glad Historic Kirkbride wants to restore historic buildings.
“I hope it succeeds,” Schmidt said. “I want it to succeed.”
Friends member Jean Roen thinks it’s fabulous that the council has chosen the plan from Historic Kirkbride.
“I’m just excited that Mr. Willey has come forward and is ready to move on it and get this done,” Roen said. “They are ready to rock and roll.”
The proposed hotel, apartments and restaurants will bring in more jobs, she said. The extra dining options will also be beneficial, since Fergus Falls is really limited, Roen said.
“It’s just going to be a place where everybody will benefit from it,” Roen said.
However, some of the other Friends are upset with the decision, according to Roen. They thought they would have more time to fine-tune things, Roen said, with the demolition extension just granted from the state legislature this spring.
Some were also in favor of the proposal from Scholz and thought they’d be better off with something a little more high-tech and with the medical jobs, Roen said.
But Roen is excited for the hotel and the market-rate apartments.
“It will make it a destination,” Roen said. “Rather than some place to drive by.”