Anoka to purchase Wells Fargo drive-through site

The Anoka City Council has approved the purchase of the Wells Fargo drive-through site at 214  Van Buren Street in downtown Anoka.

The property is being bought to increase its potential for future development, according to Community Development Director Bob Kirchner.

Flanked by city-owned properties on either side, it could lead to expanded development in the downtown core. To the west is the vacant lot at the corner of Second Avenue and Van Buren Street, once part of a development plan with defunct Rottlund Homes. While the former city library, now leased to the Anoka County Historical Society, is on the east side.

The lot could be home to a future grocery store, retail or housing development.

The city will pay $187,500 – or $7.77 per square foot – for the parcel. This is below the bank appraisal of $225,000 and less than half the 2012 assessor’s value of $557,100.

“I think its location between the two city-owned properties is very significant for us,” said Kirchner. “Particularly in the fact that we’d like to get some more commercial development downtown. In the retail or grocery store category it’s absolutely necessary that you have some onsite parking and a truck pull through dynamic to the site.”

“The last three years the value has been dropping, as much of our commercial property has been dropping,” said Kirchner.

Located in the Historic Rum River Tax Increment Financing District, developing this site would generate revenues in the district, possibly helping to pay off the debt on the municipal parking ramp, said Kirchner.

City staff are proposing to have the site cleared, but the council will have to decide how it wants the site to be maintained in the interim.

The council unanimously supported the purchase of the site, which has been on the city’s radar for many years.

“My conservative side says let the free market work,” said Councilmember Mark Freeburg. “But again this is where the government, the city, will do what private industry won’t do.”

The city needs to acquire the property, clear the building and then hold on to it and make it available during a time when commercial property is a tough sell – something private developers are hesitant to do in the current market, Freeburg said.

“We’re buying low,” he said. “It will be a good return for the community.

The council agreed it is a very attractive development opportunity for the city.

“Grocery store, or whatever it may be, when the market turns that whole area is going to be quite desirable,” said Councilmember Jeff Weaver. “I don’t know when, but I would caution the council that we get the right development in there because we only have one chance to get it right.”

According to Kirchner, the city and Wells Fargo did a pre-demolition inspection of the property to look for asbestos and other regulated waste.

Results indicate some asbestos in the bathroom floor tile, which will be removed before the building is demolished.

“Our background environment work shows there is very little concern for environmental problems or costs involved,” said Kirchner.

The purchase of the property will be paid for out of the Historic Rum River TIF District revenues.

“It’s probably not a time when we would be looking to buy an old bank building,” said Mayor Phil Rice. “But if someone else buys that property they are probably going to use it in a way that is not of great benefit to the city. This is a way, I think, for an investment we’re making in the future and in several properties around it. I think that it’s the wise thing to do.”

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]