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Baxter City Council: Developer backs away from plan for restaurant

BAXTER--The anticipated development--with a Panera restaurant--moving into the last undeveloped corner of highways 371 and 210, is off the table--at least for now.

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Chuck Rickart, principal with WSB and Associates, said the developer working with the Fruth property backed out. The development was anticipated to include Panera and a Sleep Number store. That project on land—between the spot where Fairview Road dead ends to the south, and Excelsior Street to the north (indicated by the light blue outline)—was a driving force for a street construction project. The land in question is just south of Frandsen Bank and is slated for future commercial use.

BAXTER-The anticipated development-with a Panera restaurant-moving into the last undeveloped corner of highways 371 and 210, is off the table-at least for now.

Chuck Rickart, principal with WSB and Associates, said the developer working with the Fruth property backed out. The development was anticipated to include Panera and a Sleep Number store. That project on land-between the spot where Fairview Road dead ends to the south, and Excelsior Street to the north-was a driving force for a street construction project. The land in question is just south of Frandsen Bank and is slated for future commercial use.

The proposed construction project included a roundabout on Excelsior Road, west of Highway 210 in the area where motorists access the bank, Cub Foods, the Holiday station and convenience store, Boomer Pizza and other nearby businesses, including Brenny Funeral Chapel and Cremation Services.

The roundabout idea was to have four legs with Fairview extended through the undeveloped property to provide access and to link to where it now dead ends. Other development at the Gander Mountain site and redevelopment such as the recent Cub Foods remodel were all part of the mix in looking at traffic patterns in the area.

Rickert said with the developer at the Fruth property backing out, construction on the west end of Excelsior could be pulled out and split from the rest of the project so there is more time to work through the unknowns and come up with the best project for the city and the property owners. DNR approval was given to fill in wetlands by Brenny but that plan still has to be approved by the Corps of Engineers.

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When council members questioned how that could be advantageous for bidding when it removed work on one hand, Rickert said splitting the property would help by adding to the 2017 reiidential paving and commercial reconstruction project for mill and overlay and full depth reclamation.

He also said the roundabout project was still a fine project for bidders as the quantity of work is still significant for next year. He said removing the portion of Excelsior would amount to a financial reduction of $650,000 in a $4.5 million project.

Council member Quinn Nystrom said she's felt the Fruth property has been a mystery since the council started discussing the project. She raised a spectre of Red Lobster, once often mentioned as an addition to the lakes area. Nystrom said her idea was not to wait for them.

Council member Mark Cross noted the staff time, commission time, engineering fees expended-all based on what a developer had planned for the area. He suggested that should be based on the property owner. The owner, Cross said, needs to be on board before the council jumps into something like this again. Cross said now the city is sitting with the developer-driven plan with the other players involved and now the developer backs out.

Cross said the city was going to learn from this and look at how they can prevent it in the future and maybe having the property owner sign on as well as the developer is one option.

Rickart said the council will need to make a decision in July.

A question is whether to pursue the Fairview extension now when the rest of the construction is going or wait and add it later. Rickart said either way the need is there to improve the intersection for Edgewood and Excelsior, which is failing now with traffic volumes, especially at this time of year. Rickart said it may be advantageous for the Fruth property owners to move ahead now even without this particular developer.

 

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Editor's note: The story was corrected to note splitting construction work on west Excelsior would add to the 2017 Baxter mill and overlay and full depth reclamation project not pending Forest and Inglewood projects. 

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