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BIZ BUZZ: Olive Garden construction could start this spring

Building plans for an Olive Garden Italian restaurant have been filed with the c1 / 4
Social Butterfly, Baxter, recently expanded from an event planning business that2 / 4
LaJeanna Eckhoff, owner of Social Butterfly in the Grizzly Center off Edgewood D3 / 4
Social Butterfly added a bridal boutique to its event planning shop in Baxter a 4 / 4

It’s official, or at the very least officially in the works. 

Olive Garden presented plans to the city of Baxter and submitted a building permit application to construct a restaurant. 

Plans were presented to the March 17 Architectural Review Committee. The committee recommended approval of the design, which moves the application on to the city council. It is anticipated to be on the council’s April 5 agenda. 

Baxter is processing three applications from representatives for Olive Garden — the architectural review, building permit and planning and zoning. If the project remains on track, the final application could be reviewed April 19 with construction beginning this spring, potentially in May. 

Design elements presented to the city include the familiar look to the Italian restaurant chain with its olive green sign highlighted with grapes. Building elements presented to the city include a stone veneer called Coronado Stone Appalachian Fieldstone, earthen tones for concrete tile roof and accents such as a wood trellis.

A site plan calls for a 7,537-square-foot restaurant. 

Pizza Ranch, with its name now up at the North Pointe Centre in Baxter along Highway 371, is planning an April 4 opening. 

Social Butterfly expanded from an store that focused on event planning to include a bridal boutique with wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, tuxedo rentals and bridal accessories from jewelry to invitations and gifts. 

With some of the former bridal shops no longer in business in the area, owner LaJeanna Eckhoff said she believes her shop will be able to help fill a void in the lakes area and fit into a niche with other dress shops in the area.

Eckhoff added the wedding dresses and expanded to include the bridal boutique a few weeks ago. Social Butterfly is in the Grizzly Center just off Edgewood Drive in Baxter along Highway 371. Dresses range from about $600 to more than $1,000. 

The move to expand into a full-service bridal boutique and formal wear with accessories has been exciting, Eckhoff said. Her goal is to offer a wide variety of color options for bridal and formal wear along with trendy wedding dresses. Eckhoff said she believes she will be able to offer a lot of dress for the price. 

Signs are up and photos are displayed in the former hobby shop space next to Hardee’s on Washington Street as signs announce Allan Knutson Photography is the new occupant. 

Wausau Paper’s $27 million capital investment in its paper machine has been packing the parking lots near the northeast Brainerd mill as an indicator of the number of contractors who have been put to work on the project. 

Travelers to St. Cloud may be looking at a new wrinkle in 2012. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has hosted public meetings about an interchange project on Highway 15, the route typically taken as motorists travel to west St. Cloud from Brainerd. 

MnDOT said the project to build a “diverging diamond interchange, one of the first of its kind in Minnesota will repolace the existing signal system” and “improve safety, decrease congestion and manage future capacity and community growth.” 

The diamond interchange is expected to include $10 million from the Greater Minnesota Interchange funding, $4.5 million Destination Innovation Program funding and $3 million local funding. 

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at or 855-5852.