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Sanford Center hotel appears to clear final hurdle

BEMIDJI - After months of waiting, a proposed hotel attached to the Sanford Center appeared to clear one last hurdle this week.

Councilors agreed to give developers of the Country Inn & Suites, Wayzata-based Bay Ridge Properties International, 90 days to secure their finances for the $16 million project during an April 16 meeting in exchange for $50,000.

Tripp Snyder, Bay Ridge chief executive officer, said after that meeting he was "100 percent" sure they'd meet the deadline. And up until Friday afternoon, it wasn't clear whether or not that would be the case.

"I'm hearing from the bank a (loan) commitment letter is on its way," Tiffany Fettig, business loan consultant for the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, said Friday. She said financing was the last major roadblock in the way of construction starting.

Snyder didn't return calls seeking comment Thursday and Friday.

City councilors are scheduled to receive an update on the project during a Bemidji Economic Development Authority meeting Monday night.

City manager John Chattin said with the financing in place, there would be a few things like the development agreement and the design of the hotel itself that need to be finalized before construction could begin. He anticipates that would happen soon.

"From our perspective, it could be 30 days or less," Chattin said.

The hotel and attached Cowboy Jack's restaurant, which has been touted as a major catalyst for conventions and more development along the city's south shore, has been in limbo for some time. Snyder agreed to pay $756,000 for 2.17 acres of city-owned land next to the Sanford Center in March 2012.

Final loan approval and subsequent construction seemed to be around the corner several times in the past year. Planners even laid down straw on the site to prevent the ground from freezing in case they started work over the winter.

The City Council has tentatively agreed to a request for $400,000 out of its revolving loan fund for the project, which will be used in the construction of the connection between the hotel and the Sanford Center.

Land sale hearing

A public hearing on the sale of south shore land for apartments may not occur as scheduled Monday night.

City attorney Al Felix said Friday afternoon he anticipates recommending the BEDA reschedule that hearing, likely for Aug. 5, as the purchase agreement in place between the city and Northridge Construction Inc. has not been finalized.

Felix wrote in a memo to the BEDA that part of the delay had to do with the fact that city staff only just received proposed revisions Wednesday.

City councilors, acting as the BEDA, agreed to sell 2.67 acres of south shore land to the Grand Forks, N.D.-based developers on June 17 for about $350,000.

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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