By Robert Williams
The Palace Cafe was the hot topic at this month’s meeting of the Frazee Economic and Development Authority on Tuesday, July 26.
According to word on the street, there are three potential buyers and multiple members reported potential sale scenarios, the specifics of those being off the record.
“That’s an opportunity for someone who wants to get into the restaurant business. Losing that is losing something major in town and you don’t really notice it’s gone until it’s gone.”Ted Anderson, EDA Member
Regardless of multiple rumors, members of the committee expressed big concerns for the potential loss of the restaurant downtown.
“We can’t lose it right now,” said chair Hank Ludtke.
The actual building has multiple owners.
EDA member and city councilman Mark Flemmer recently met with the group noting a sale price for the building and the business is currently a fluid number.
Anderson led the discussion reiterating his concerns and the need for the EDA to play a primary role in helping secure the future of the cafe.
“It’s something that I think is really important to this board to make sure that it stays going,” he said. “I’ve seen towns that have lost their restaurant and two years later they try to get it going again by a board or a council and it doesn’t work because all the people are gone. Now the people are there.”
The Palace Cafe is not the only thing for sale in the vicinity. The 2,460 square foot building next door, 109 Main Avenue West, is currently listed for sale for $125,000.
According to Ludtke, that same building was available last year for half the price.
Anderson summed up Tuesday’s meeting by encouraging fellow EDA members to emphasize finding a solution to both the cafe and housing in town.
“Don’t forget the restaurant—that’s a 911, I think, and so is housing,” he said.
More housing being prioritized
With space available in Frazee, the EDA is prioritizing more ways to try to bring affordable housing to town and making the need an imperative at each meeting going forward.
According to Ludtke, at the Becker County level of EDA, that group is proposing working with a think tank in Detroit Lakes of business and property owners and bankers in collaboration. The group will work together to look at what can be done outside of Detroit Lakes in cities in the county for more housing.
The goal is to involve local banking and private investment to work with the county and other municipalities beside the county seat.
“We need more housing,” Ludtke said. “We have jobs; we just have no place for people to live and we have more people that want to come here all the time. That’s another reason why we need better internet service too, because we have people working from home and they’re not going to come here and buy here if they can’t do their jobs from home.”
EDA member Heath Peterson and economic development consultant Don Lorsung also discussed the need to find out why developers have not taken advantage of space in Frazee for multi-family development and what needs to be adjusted to make it more attractive for developers.
“I think our focus needs to be on multi-housing,” said Peterson.
Ludtke reported a current, regional housing need for 2,500 units within a 20-mile radius of Detroit Lakes from talks with Becker County EDA.
“You’d probably have them filled before the building was done,” said Anderson.
MidCo high-speed internet welcome
MidContinent Communications (Midco) is finalizing the franchise agreement to bring high speed internet to Frazee next year.
MidCo Vice president Justin Forde presented the offer to the city council in July seeking permission for his company to construct a state-of-the-art fiber network to provide broadband internet, phone and television access.
The move will certainly affect Arvig Communications, based in Perham, which currently provides broadband-level speeds to town.
Peterson expressed the need for high speed internet access the area, noting that he had a discussion with Arvig and Frazee, despite being only 12 miles away from Arvig headquarters, is not in the company’s discussion for any improvements to the internet speed already provided in town.
Multiple members noted the difficulty in attracting new businesses without high speed and also the need for existing businesses to have better options.
“If we’re ever going to get any technology businesses in town they’re not going to settle for broadband,” said Peterson. “It’s unfortunate, because it would be nice if we could work with the local (company) that way.”
Midco has been installing fiber in Detroit Lakes over the past year and plans to extend those services to Frazee and down Highway 10 in 2023, along with looking at potential services to the surrounding lakes area.
Grant funding proposals to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails for Wannigan Park are receiving positive initial reviews. The grant application returned a rating in the 90th percentile, according to city administrator Jordin Roberts. The park’s application was one of two proposals ranked that high. Out of 100+ submittals, the park’s application was ranked in the top 20. Funding is being sought to complete the acquisition of the property.
work to start
Exterior construction on the business center building downtown is scheduled to begin this week and continue Aug. 8-12, when the building is unoccupied. The remodel is scheduled to be done by the end of August or early to mid-September.