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Site design for events center will be unveiled

Next week is going to be a critical week for the events center, Cliff Tweedale said Monday.

Tweedale, the executive director of the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, offered his monthly update on the events center during Monday's Bemidji City Council meeting.

The City Council will see a new site design for the events center, which is now planned to be on the south shore of Lake Bemidji, during a work session at 5:15 p.m. Monday, Tweedale said.

The design will not be a master plan for the entire 130 acres planned to be purchased in the area, Tweedale explained, but will offer a footprint of where the events center complex would be located.

"I think you're going to like it," he said.

Additionally, the "project team" - which consists of representatives from the city's staff, HRDC, Leo A. Daly, Bemidji State University and Conventions, Sports & Leisure - has been considering ways to get more building out of the project, Tweedale said.

About eight to 10 possibilities are being discussed, he said.

The council recently agreed to hire a CSL representative, Bill Krueger, to assist the city in moving forward. Krueger and Leo A. Daly representatives will be present during Monday's work session to make recommendations on the building - and explain what the tradeoffs might be, Tweedale said.

"No easy choices," he said.

The public will also have an opportunity to see the plans and weigh in on the project during an open house Nov. 27. Tweedale said Krueger and representatives from Leo A. Daly will answer questions and meet with the public. No time has yet been announced.

Mayor Richard Lehmann announced last month that the city plans to locate the proposed events center on the south shore of Lake Bemidji and not in the downtown railroad corridor as originally proposed. The announcement was made during a press conference and in a news release.

Tweedale offered the following updates on the points made in the original news release:

E South shore location: The purchase of the entire site is "very close" to being formalized, but is not yet complete. A new site plan is in the first draft and will be presented to the City Council on Monday.

E Maximum value from buildings: The architect has offered some value design options. Krueger and the project team are considering those options and will make recommendations to the council on Monday.

E Site savings/sale of land: City staff is working on assessing the potential of site savings and the potential for gain from selling some land in the southeast Lake Bemidji location that is not needed for trails, parks or the events center.

E The lease agreement with BSU will be aggressively negotiated. Two meetings have already been held, and Krueger has been hired to assist in the process. Another meeting is scheduled for next week. Tweedale explained that the committee initially was considering lease agreement frameworks and will now be challenged to look at "concrete numbers" concerning revenue and costs.

E Outside funding partners: The project team is meeting with local sources on the possibility of attaining local funds to assist in the project, and is also investigating possible partnerships with a hotel developer to develop a conventions center with the project.

E City's commitment to downtown revitalization: City staff and the HRDC continue to work and meet with the Downtown Development Authority and Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce to develop a process for moving forward.

E An aggressive public engagement plan: The HRDC and city staff are meeting with an alliance of local business owners. Also, an open house will be held next week, and the City Council will meet in a work session on Monday.

A strategy has been developed to move the project forward, which is promising, Tweedale said.

"I like what people are doing," he said. "They're working pretty hard at it."