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Brainerd to stay involved in talks of Downtown Motel's future

The city of Brainerd will continue to stay involved in the process of possibly acquiring the Downtown Motel on Sixth Street. Just what that involvement means is still up in the air.

At its meeting Monday, the Brainerd City Council heard a request from Brainerd Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to partner to buy the Downtown Motel, at 507 S. Sixth St.

There is no money for that set aside, said city Administrator Patrick Wussow.

City officials agreed since there was no financial capability on their side, they would refer the topic to the Economic Development Authority for possible movement. The city will stay involved with updates and talks on the property, as well as possibly apply for future grants that may require the city to submit the application.

Downtown Motel owner Denis Villella approached the city several months ago, offering to sell his property for $75,000. Following the offer, the Personnel and Finance Committee referred the issue to the HRA.

Since then, HRA officials negotiated with Villella and explored redevelopment options, said Brainerd HRA Executive Director Jennifer Bergman.

Because of the size of the parcels, redevelopment would be difficult without getting more land, Bergman said in a report to the council.

“Although I have had several discussions with developers who have some ideas, there are not any commitments or specific reuses for the property,” she continued.

The property has been a “problem” for many years, resulting in police calls and code enforcement issues, Bergman said. The property owner cannot rent out rooms until the building is brought up to code.

Acquiring and demolishing the property would be a “big improvement to downtown Brainerd and would require a significant investment,” Bergman said.

A purchase agreement was signed between Villella and Brainerd HRA, contingent upon HRA Board approval. The agreement is also contingent on putting the parcels back into the HRA’s downtown TIF district, which was recently requested to the county.

The HRA Board tabled its decision on buying the motel in order to approach the city of Brainerd and Economic Development Authority to see if there was interest in partnering and sharing the cost.

The Brainerd HRA will consider applying for the Demolition Loan Program through the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Bergman said.

The cost of the acquisition would be $62,500. Costs of demolition, removal of hazardous material and other costs bring the total estimated bill to $101,296.

Bergman said buying the motel and tearing it down aligns with the goals of the city to invest in its neighborhoods, and the goals of the Brainerd HRA to redevelop properties in the city.

Most city council members voiced agreement that tearing down the old motel would be an improvement, but said they would not agree to supplying any funds toward it.

City council member Mary Koep said she would agree to it, but will never agree to putting a “penny toward it.”

In other city council news:

Approved a request from St. Francis Catholic Church property at 411 N. 10th St. for a conditional use permit for temporary use as an office. It came to the council as a recommendation from the Planning Commission.

Had the first reading of a zoning text amendment on how a motel/hotel becomes an extended stay operation and what would be considered a violation.

It came to the council as a recommendation from the Planning Commission. The commission started talks on the topic when the Brainerd Hotel was for sale and proposed to reuse it as some type of extended stay, said City Planner Mark Ostgarden.

When that fell through, the commission was far enough along in its review that members decided to continue the process should it come up again in the future.

In the text, a hotel becomes an extended stay establishment when a guest stays longer than 30 days. Each hotel must maintain daily records reflecting the renting activity.

Approved a bid of $784,524 from C&L Excavating for the Garfield Street reconstruction project. That was the low bid of the four bids received.

Approved disposing of a Dial-a-Ride bus, per the request of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). The 2006 bus was removed from service because of age and condition. It will be sold for parts and funds received will be returned to the transit account to offset future capital costs.

Approved the purchase of a replacement bus for $74,430 from North Central Bus Sales. MnDOT will reimburse 80 percent of the cost. The remaining amount will be split between the city of Brainerd, Crow Wing County and the city of Baxter.

Approved the purchase of a second replacement bus for $74,430 from North Central Bus Sales. The MnDOT will reimburse 80 percent of the cost. The remaining amount will be split between the city of Brainerd, Crow Wing County and the city of Pine River.

Approved a public hearing at 7:30 p.m., June 16, in regard to a petition the city received to vacate part of an alley in the Cuyuna Range Addition, 24th Street. The process required a public hearing, a two-week published notice and notification of affected property owners.

City council members Gary Scheeler and Mary Koep expressed concern about the effect that would have on future development for the city and the value of the property with that change.

The group agreed to have the public hearing in order to address and hear those and other concerns.

Heard of a selective harvest timber cut at Trailside Park. The estimated value for the harvest is $6,735. The group voted to recommend to the park board that the funds be used for roof replacement at the park offices.

Voted to not waive monetary limits on the Municipal Tort Liability established by state statutes.

Approved an extension of premises for Shep’s on 6th for an Aug. 22-23 event.

Approved two street closure requests for Brainerd History week. The first is for June 16 and involves the closure of Laurel Street between South Fourth and South Sixth streets. The second is for June 18 and involves the closure of Laurel Street between South Sixth and South Eighth streets.

Adjourned into closed session to discuss union negotiation strategies.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at