EDA ready for 2020 goals now that Twiford redeveloped

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Now that the Chatfield Economic Development Authority (EDA) has completed the sale of the Twiford redevelopment and witnessed the construction of a new Dollar General store that opened there on Wednesday, Dec. 11, it is looking ahead to 2020 and the goals that the EDA can set for the community’s growth.

The Twiford redevelopment project’s completion marked the beginning of a different kind of retail commerce in Chatfield as Dollar General manager Paul Hoornoert observed that shopping traffic through the store had been constant since opening and that customers had most commented on being able to shop without leaving town. The completion of that project cleared the EDA’s 2020 slate for new projects that are meant to keep the local economy thriving.    

The EDA didn’t meet in December as the regularly scheduled date conflicted with holiday plans, but economic development director Chris Giesen reviewed the Twiford project and outlined some of the work during 2019 for the Chatfield News. He also took a look ahead to goals for 2020 when the EDA convenes in January.

Twiford project complex

The Twiford redevelopment was a long time in the making as preliminary discussions with the developer on this project began in late 2017 or early 2018.  The purchase agreement was approved in April 2018 and the sale was official on July 29, 2019. Six parcels were combined into one to accommodate private redevelopment. 

“There were several title issues that had to be resolved,” Giesen said. “These issues, along with the number of different owners and small size of the parcels is why the EDA got involved in the first place. We wanted to see commercial development happen in that area and needed to assemble the properties.  Some of the properties had issues dating back to the days when the railroad was still in operation.”    

Redevelopment has long been a strategic goal of the EDA. The EDA didn’t set out to attract a Dollar General store specifically, but redeveloping this property from residential to commercial has been a community goal dating back to at least the early 1990s, Giesen noted. 

“We had several serious prospects in the five or six years we owned and marketed this site for sale, but in the end, this project was the one that was able and willing to move forward,” he said.

“The reason we got involved with this property was because the EDA saw underutilized property that was too fragmented to be attractive for redevelopment otherwise, and we wanted to see redevelopment occur,” Giesen said.  “We assembled the property into one lot and had several serious prospects over five to six years, including a 40-room hotel. 

“In the end, this site was very attractive to the developers of the Dollar General store, and we were able to make a deal with them.  Given how the property was configured prior to this project, including the water and sewer lines that used to run through the middle of this and surrounding properties, as well as the narrow road that Twiford Street used to be, it was just a matter of finding a development project that could fit the site and carry the development costs of such a challenging site.” 

A positive from this project is that the surrounding properties are much more viable for development or redevelopment, should current owners choose or be interested since surrounding property owners won’t have to contend with reconfiguring public infrastructure or streets. 

“That piece of the puzzle has been completed for everyone,” Giesen said. 

Construction one of many goals   

Seeing construction begin on the corner of Twiford and Division was “a big change, impressive to see how efficiently and quickly redevelopment took place,” he said. And now that a new store is open for business, it’s “exciting” because it’s “one more source of products for residents and visitors in Chatfield.  It’s one more option,” Giesen said.

Once the EDA had agreements in place with the developers of the Dollar General project, one of the EDA’s biggest priorities was “ensuring that project could cross the finish line,” Giesen said.

However, the EDA set several other goals for 2019.

In general, the goals included assisting existing, expanding or startup businesses, administering and promoting the programs that can be used by Chatfield businesses, distributing a visitors guide, marketing and selling property along Enterprise Drive, promoting creation of new housing lots or new home construction, attracting a hotel and applying for grants, including the grant to receive about $7.9 million in state bonding funds for phase two of the Chatfield Center for the Arts. 

Goals for 2020 

EDA goals for 2020 include finalizing a development agreement to develop approximately 10 acres of land along Division Street Northwest for new homes, pursuing a hotel, continuing to market the properties along Enterprise Drive for sale for commercial businesses, continuing to manage and promote use of existing EDA programs such as the loan program, assisting existing, expanding and startup businesses, promoting redevelopment and development – including housing and commercial.  The EDA is working to secure funding for the Chatfield Center for the Arts. 

“I’d also like to do some more promotion and marketing of the community in general to highlight the amenities we all enjoy to help spur additional growth,” Geisen said.  “The EDA has also recommended that the City Council assist the EDA in community goal-setting by conducting some strategic planning and gathering community input.”   

There are some tricky parts to being always open to new economic development, Giesen related, as finding investors and people to own and operate projects can be a challenge.  Finding locations for projects can also be a challenge, he added, especially when downtown is nearly full and most of the ground that is “developable” has some kind of physical challenge because the city is located in a river valley. 

“There are so many opportunities in Chatfield, it’s exciting to see others recognize those opportunities and invest in our community,” he said. “I continue to get inquiries from prospective new businesses and existing businesses.  Some of these projects take a while to get off the ground before they can be public, but we’re always working towards bringing new projects forward. 

“I’m looking forward to another busy year, 2020, working with these prospects as well as the prospects we find throughout the year.  We have four different residential developers considering new subdivisions of varying size and scope in different areas of the city, and one of the most exciting new businesses is Olmsted Medical’s brand-new pharmacy that should be opening soon.” 

Public input sought

Giesen invited residents to contribute to the EDA’s goal-setting process in the coming months, as the panel’s monthly meeting is open to the public.  He invited local residents to give him a call, email or stop by to chat. 

“I always enjoy getting ideas, getting feedback or chatting about current projects,” he said. “Call or email our City Council and EDA members, attend our EDA meetings, participate in open houses and other public events that are held from time to time to inform community planning like our comprehensive plan.  The EDA is here to serve and promote Chatfield.  Input and ideas are welcome.” 

For more information or to lend an idea, email Giesen at chris.giesen@cedausa.com