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Big plans in the works for Westridge Shopping Center

The Westridge Shopping Center will undergo some major changes in the coming months, including renovations at Marketplace Foods. Monte Draper|Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – A local shopping center will see some major changes and new stores in the coming months.

Bemidji-based Pace Development LLC is currently finalizing a lease agreement for the clothing chain T.J. Maxx to occupy the current OfficeMax location in the Westridge Shopping Center by spring 2014.

OfficeMax would then move into an almost 14,000 square-foot space, smaller than its current location, that is currently part of Marketplace Foods. The grocery store will undergo its own renovations over the summer.

“We reached out to a lot of national tenants and started findingwho had an interest if we redeveloped the center,” said John Meyers, president of Pace Development. “Because, quite frankly, it’s the best piece of real estate, we feel, and I think we’re getting confirmation from these retailers, it’s one of the best corners from literally Grand Forks, to International Falls, back to Brainerd, and over to Grand Rapids.”

Meyers said other potential tenants expressed interest in small spaces in Marketplace, but Thrifty White Drug and Great Clips will remain. He said a “significant portion” of the grocery store’s remodel will finish in August, with OfficeMax opening in its new location before Christmas this year.

Meanwhile, Pace is negotiating with an unnamed national sporting goods retailer to move into the former Fashion Bug space, he said.

The redevelopment plans, a $6-$7 million investment according to Meyers, also include the possibility for a third city-operated liquor store on the east side of the Marketplace building. That proposal will go before the city council again Monday night.

Pace and Marketplace Foods, both of which are led by Meyers and longtime area developer and grocer Keith Johanneson, are also completing a large construction project in Minot, N.D. The first phase includes a new 60,000-square foot Marketplace Foods, a True Value Hardware store, and a locally owned fitness center, an $18 million project.

Meyers said the redevelopment project in Bemidji was a matter of “great timing.”

“Taking on Bemidji at the same time as we’re doing Minot, while it’s a challenge … you have to do these things when the marketplace allows you to do them,” Meyers said.

In addition to all the shifting in the coming months, the Marketplace Foods and Pace Development corporate offices themselves will move down the street into the space currently occupied by the Hungry Bear, 2300 24 St. NW. Hungry Bear will close in the near future, Meyers said.

Meyers said the company is negotiating with Health Quest to consolidate their two locations into the Hungry Bear building.

Third liquor store

The discussion over another liquor store in Bemidji will come before the city council again during a Monday night work session.

City councilors raised concerns during a meeting on April 15 about the prospect of leasing out space in the Marketplace Foods building for a city-operated liquor store. Specifically, Ward 2 Councilor Roger Hellquist said he wanted the city to thoroughly vet other options, adding that he received a call about the potential for leasing out the Sears building at 2722 Paul Bunyan Drive NW.

City manager John Chattin wrote in a memo to the council ahead of Monday’s meeting stating that the Sears proposal has previously come up, but staff “believed that location would not be in the city’s best interests.”

He cited at least $600,000 in remodeling costs and lack of parking and access.

Chattin also mentioned in the memo that city staff had also looked at another, undisclosed building located on a prime intersection that wasn’t on the market but could be purchased.

But Chattin said the cost of buying the building would be $1.7 million and another $600,000 to renovate.

“That was compared to a potential $61,250 annual lease plus approximately $200,000 in upfront costs to occupy the Marketplace location,” Chattin wrote.

Chattin added that Pace has offered to change terms of a negotiated lease to allow the city to opt out after the third year under certain conditions.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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