By Robert Williams
The Frazee Economic Development Authority (EDA) was sent back to the drawing board on the Downtown Commercial Retail Space when chairman Hank Ludtke was informed of Northern Dental Access Center’s (NDAC) to pull out of the Frazee market.
NDAC announced that the non-profit had chosen Frazee for its third location in February and a tentative agreement was reached between the city of Frazee and NDAC on the purchase of the downtown commercial building on East Main Avenue in August.
The decision included nearly two years of fundraising for the project and at the two-year mark the funding simply was not there to complete the transaction.
“Over the past few weeks, a decision has been made that Northern Dental Access won’t be pursuing the City of Frazee’s downtown building as a new clinic site, after all.”Jane Neubauer, Partnership 4 Health Dental Services Coordinator, in an email to Ludtke and Frazee Economic Development Consultant Don Lorsung.
“The primary reason for this change is that it has been two years since this project first started, and during that time the funding landscape and outlook for capital funding for the entire project has not been what we had hoped,” Neubauer said. “Therefore, and because time is of the essence to get these needed dental services up and running, the Collaborative partners made the tough decision to put a new construction building on hold indefinitely, and will instead pursue development of a new satellite outreach clinic through Apple Tree Dental. This pivot in the project will also allow Northern Dental Access to put their focus on two expansion projects in the works which are geographically closer to their base clinic in Bemidji.”
Those base clinics are NDAC’s main clinic in Bemidji and a smaller clinic in Halstad.
Apple Tree Dental has nine locations statewide including Fergus Falls and Hawley.
“We are very grateful to the City of Frazee for your time and investment in this project to date,” said Neubauer. “While this new model will look somewhat different than our original plan, we sincerely hope the City of Frazee will continue to participate in the planning for these increased dental care services in Becker County. The vastly needed services under either model will undoubtedly benefit children and families in Frazee as well as all of Becker County and we hope with this shift in planning that the new model can be up and running within the next 12 months.”
“It takes a lot of wind out of your sails,” said EDA member Ashley Rennolet.
With purchasing the entire building now off the table, the EDA will be looking to possibly divide it up for any interested parties.
“Your options are you could sell the building as it is or market the building after the suites have been completed that would increase the value of the building, however, what comes into question is the amount of money in your budget. Is it enough to finish all of the suites in today’s environment?” said Lorsung.
“I look at it from a perspective that you put that money into it, it’s a wash,” said Renollet. “I, personally, would advise not finishing it.”
A third option is to continue owning the building, leasing to Seip Drug and any new tenants the EDA can acquire.
The last appraisal for the building put its worth at approximately $900,000.
Without a sale, the EDA will have to determine financing the cost of the building by February.
Ludtke also noted a detriment to NDAC’s pursuit of moving to Frazee was its ineligibility in qualifying for the state Main Street Economic Revitalization Program.
West Central Initiative received approximately $3.4 million from the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development Main Street Economic Revitalization Program to provide matching grants for the redevelopment of commercial space along three corridors in west central Minnesota. The corridors include:
• The City of Browns Valley along Broadway and State Highway 28.
• The City of Morris along Atlantic Avenue, State Highway 9, and US Highway 59.
• The Cities of Moorhead, Dilworth, Glyndon, Hawley, Lake Park, Audubon, Detroit Lakes, Frazee, Perham, New York Mills, and Bluffton intersected by State Highway 10.
The fine print includes that eligible businesses or organizations of the funding need to be located on Highway 10, on an access or frontage road along Highway 10, or an intersecting road, which, somewhat ironically, would make the former Seip Drug location eligible but the commercial space down Main Street ineligible.
“What holds me back from finishing the building is you don’t know what goes in there,” said Renollet.
The EDA is in favor of accepting offers from companies looking for office space. According to City Administrator Stephanie Poegel, there have been inquiries made to the city about acquiring office space in Frazee.
The Northwest Minnesota Dental project will be holding its next stakeholder meeting Friday, Dec. 8 at 10 a.m., via zoom, to discuss the future of the project.
“We look forward to filling everyone in on the details of the updated plan at that time, as well as getting input and direction for the next steps,” Neubauer said.
Later in the week, Frazee EDA Chair contacted NDAC about purchasing the current dental practice in town, owned by Dr. Daniel J. Korf, DDS. The building, located across the street from the Event Center on Ash Avenue, houses one operating lab with space for one to two more.
Given NDAC’s scaling back of the original project that included nine chairs, the Korf building provides an opportunity for NDAC to stay in town.