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Development details for RTC expected by month’s end

Published 3:44am Monday, September 23, 2013 Updated 5:54am Monday, September 23, 2013

The company which plans to preserve the Regional Treatment Center expects to have a draft development agreement completed by month’s end. The agreement is the next step in formalizing a plan for Historic Kirkbride, LLC to renovate the RTC’s main building as the home of apartments, a hotel, restaurants and retail shops.

During the two months since Historic Kirkbride and the City of Fergus Falls agreed on a letter of intent for the preservation and development project, the process has moved along with no major hurdles, said Ray Willey, CEO of Historic Properties, the company that formed Historic Kirkbride.

“It’s a little bit of a chess game, but so far it seems to be coming together well,” Willey said. “This one emerges as a real showcase example of a building that absolutely should be saved and put back into service. We’re happy to be here.”

The development agreement will spell out who is involved with the project, what role each party will play and how the project will be financed.

Historic Kirkbride has also done its due diligence regarding RTC structural issues. “So far, we’ve run into no impediments,” Willey said.

The estimated total cost of $41.4 million to redevelop the building hasn’t changed either. That estimate includes creating a 120-room upscale hotel with associated amenities. Another section of the RTC would be developed as market-rate housing, but details on that portion of the plan remain to be filled in, though it will probably be by the end of the month, Willey indicated.

The company is working with retail tenants committed to go into the 183,000 square-foot dining and kitchen space within the RTC. They include a coffee/bagel shop, family-style pizza restaurant with game rooms, a sports bar and a barbecue restaurant. Historic Kirkbride would like to add one or two others to the mix as well.

They’ve also started working with an architect on plans to make the building handicap accessible, a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Willey and Bill Brown, also of Historic Kirkbride, met recently with Gene and Maxine Schmidt of Friends of the Kirkbride, the local group which has fought to keep the structure from being torn down. Historic Kirkbride looks forward to working with the local group. They have the same goal in terms of saving the building, Willey said.

“Our goal is to change very little,” Willey said. “We want to try as much as possible to leave the footprint of the building.”

The meeting with Historic Kirkbride went very well, according to Maxine Schmidt. They “absolutely” have the same goals, she said.

“I remain very optimistic that everything will work out,” Maxine Schmidt said. “We want to see it saved. We’re under the impression that that is what they’re hoping for as well.”

The development agreement with the city is the next big check to remove from the project’s list.

“It’s a joint agreement,” Willey said. “That will really be the guiding document going forward.”

A preliminary timeline tentatively indicated the project’s grand opening would be in December 2015. However, that would only happen, “If everything fell into place just perfectly,” Willey said.

“In reality, it probably would be sometime in 2016 when it’s all built out,” he said. “The size and scope of it is enormous. And there’s a lot of work to be done. We don’t want to drag the process out at all.”

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