Posted 8/18/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
The downtown lots, which have been an ongoing project for the Tioga Economic Development Corporation for a couple of years, remain empty. Now the group is taking a closer look at developing the property themselves.
The most recent attempt to attract developers was a six-month exclusive agreement with Basin Brokers, which granted the company a 4 percent commission on the sale.
As of Aug. 21, the contract will expire, and EDC members voiced concern at the group’s meeting last week about renewing the contract.
“When you do an Internet search, other commercial properties come up but not ours,” said President Chris Norgaard, speaking after the meeting.
During the group’s discussion, Norgaard mentioned the lack of online visibility as well as a lack of response from repeated phone calls to the company’s real estate agent handling the listing.
Community Development Director Melissa Koch also expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s performance.
“I’m not confident about relisting with them,” she said after explaining the trouble she’s had getting the realtor to return her calls.
Chamber of Commerce member Dennis Lindahl was at the meeting and said he’s had similar problems with some realtors in the area, which he attributes to the high demand for commercial property.
“They don’t have to hustle. They don’t have to chase anyone down or call anybody,” Lindahl said.
He said he believes the land could attract a developer with the right strategy.
Others at the meeting also pointed out the Main Street construction, once it is completed, could make the property more attractive.
This is not the first agreement the EDC has signed in hopes of finding a developer. Last year, they signed an exclusivity agreement with Shingobee, hoping the company’s reputation and connections with developers might result in some interest. The deal came to an end in December without any takers.
While the EDC is considering who to list with after the Basin Brokers contract ends, they are also floating the possibility they will have to develop the land themselves.
The hope is businesses will be more interested in the property if the commercial space is already built.
Koch proposes using funds from the Tioga Fund to support such a project. The fund is supported by a one percent sales tax. Every year, a portion of that fund that is not paid out in economic development grants goes towards property tax relief.
Koch said when this money is distributed across eligible landowners within city limits, it doesn’t have a profound impact on lowering property taxes. Instead, if the money could support downtown development, it would have a more meaningful impact on the community.
The idea is only in the earliest discussion phase. What’s possible, if anything, is uncertain.
“I think some more strategy needs to be put into play before we pursue that, but it might be something,” said Norgaard, speaking after the meeting.
No decisions were made at the meeting, and the topic will be revisited at the next EDC meeting in September.
“We have to do something. We’ve been sitting on those for two or three years now,” said Norgaard.