After being vacant for more than six years, the former Dairy Queen site is set to become the new headquarters of the New Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
City council members heard from four groups interested in the property’s potential development and chose the House proposal at their Jan. 10 meeting.
“The city council voted to select the Chamber as a group. I anticipate that when they submit their building plans for the Planning Commission, we would then have a closing date and determine whether they would pay property taxes, make some sort of payment in lieu of taxes, or just what would be the arrangement,” City Administrator Noah Wiedenfeld said.
Chamber manager Rob Kreibich is enthusiastic about the location and sees an opportunity for the chamber to amplify its downtown presence.
“Were excited. We like the visibility on Knowles Avenue and the convenience of this location.
This space along the river will allow us to maintain a downtown presence and keep us close to most of our major events at Mary Park, Downtown Fun Fest and our Hometown Holiday event,” Krebich said.
The city attached four conditions to the purchase of the House.
No more than one-third of the building should be occupied by tax-exempt businesses.
The Chamber will pay a payment in lieu of property taxes.
The west-facing wall of the building (facing Knowles Avenue) must conform to the redevelopment plans for the north side, as set out in the comprehensive city plan.
The project must provide enough space for a future river walk along the Willow River
The Chamber, already a nonprofit, is in the process of forming a 501c3 nonprofit that would own the building, setting up a similar situation to the Chippewa Falls Chamber.
“Their chamber built a new building. They own it and instead of not paying taxes, they pay $500 a month for police and fire protection. We would be given the property on the condition that two-thirds would pay property taxes. Hopefully there would be three or four tenants on the main level, leased space on the middle level, and investors or contractors looking to occupy a third level. So those commercial condos that we would sell would pay property taxes and the Chamber would pay something in lieu of property taxes,” Kreibich explained.
“The House is tax-exempt, so the hope, the intention of the city council, is that there is property tax revenue or an agreement (payment in lieu of taxes) of some sort that the city is made whole over time for their initial acquisition of the property,” Wiedenfeld said.
In addition to the Chamber occupying the ground floor, there would be a visitor center and incubation space for entrepreneurs. According to Kreibich, many suitors seek to be neighbors in the House.
“Rooms are precious buildings because they are a center of activity. They serve as a catalyst for economic development. We have attracted interest from chiropractors, retailers, real estate agents, insurance agencies and wealth managers, all with very little advertising and all saying they would like to be in a building with us,” Kreibich said.
Despite all the hustle and bustle, several issues need to be resolved, including parking and access to Knowles Avenue.
“With tenants and just our normal room traffic, we will need more parking spaces than your normal business,” Kreibich said.
In addition to a new chamber building, this stretch of Knowles Avenue is shared by McDonald’s, Subway, BP, Verizon, The Space and Lumberjack Liquors, making priority aisle access and security a challenge .
“It’s not an ideal situation. Because Knowles is a state highway, the state could step in and close some of the driveways. We will therefore need assurances on this subject. The last thing we want to do is build a $2 million building and have the access cut off,” Kreibach said.
The initial render shows a two-story building. This idea is now reconfigured into a three-story concept.
“There is work to be done, but we recently had a very productive meeting with the city. They created more parking space for us, that’s what we wanted to hear. We returned to Derrick and are now designing a three story building.
We would occupy a third of the ground floor, or approximately 1,500 square feet. So it would be 4,500 on the main level, 4,500 on the second level, and 4,500 on the third without a basement due to the proximity to the river,” Kreibich said.
Kreibich feels the time has come for the House to take the next step. With 500 members and a healthy bank account, a new building would ensure the Chamber’s commitment to the future of New Richmond.
“We are able to define our future for the next 50 years, but we will be patient. Our 11-person board is going to have to approve this, not just me. The finances have to work and the location has to work, but I can tell you with certainty that we can absolutely fill the building. We have a long-term commitment to downtown New Richmond,” Kreibich said.