BEMIDJI -- In the 1890s, Tams Bixby was a pivotal member in establishing what's now the city of Bemidji.

More than 120 years later, a condominium complex is under construction bearing Bixby's name along the city's scenic shore of Lake Bemidji.

Tim Mrazek of Jonzek, LLC is helming the project, which has been in development for about two years. Mrazek said he initiated the project because of feedback from residents at housing complexes he operates.

"I had some other rentals, and had an elderly woman call me about main floor heated parking," Mrazek said. "She told me if I had a building like that, it would sell. From what I've heard, there are people in their 70s who don't want to cut grass and park out in the cold."

Enter the Bixby, a 19,500 square-foot, three-story condominium complex with 32 units on two floors, and a heated parking garage on the first floor. Construction of the building on Lake Bemidji's South Shore is underway, and six units have already been sold, with another three leased.

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The building, estimated at $7 million, has 16 one-bedroom units, 12 two-bedroom units and four three-bedroom units. The structure is expected to be finished in spring 2022, with May being the likely month it's ready to open.

Prices for the units range will from $224,300 to $558,500.

"I knew if I did it, I'd want them to be high-end rentals, so I looked at the South Shore for years," Mrazek said. "The city previously had a requirement of new buildings being 30% retail. But I happened to be watching Lakeland news when the city chose to remove that requirement."

Mrazek decided to move forward with the project and got started by buying 1.9 acres of land on the South Shore from the city worth $435,000. In doing so, the city's debt obligation for the South Shore was fulfilled.

"We've paid the bonds off," Bemidji City Manager Nate Mathews said. "When we sold the Bixby lot, we paid off our debt on the South Shore. We may have some debt costs for finance services, but we don't have any more debt on the land."

The city had purchased 130 acres along the South Shore in 2007 for $13 million. The action was taken to spur development along the lakefront.

South Shore development

The main development the city was interested in for the South Shore was the Sanford Center. Originally referred to as the Bemidji Regional Event Center, proponents for the facility had initially considered a downtown location but changed it to the lakefront area.

In 2006, by a vote of 2,227-2,182, Bemidji residents approved a referendum extending a half-cent sales tax to assist in the construction of the building. The 193,000 square-foot Sanford Center broke ground in 2009 and opened in 2010.

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It contains an arena with more than 4,000 seats and attached conference space. Along with being the home of BSU's Beaver Hockey programs, the facility is often used for conferences, trade shows, weddings and conventions.

A few years later, in 2013, the DoubleTree hotel opened west of the event center, adjacent to the Green Mill restaurant and Hampton Inn and Suites. Another hotel opening a year later was the Country Inn and Suites, a $16 million development adjacent to the Sanford Center.

Along with the hotel, a connecting structure was built to allow easy access to the Sanford Center. A 10,000 square-foot restaurant, the Tavern on South Shore, was attached to the hotel.

In 2015, work continued on the South Shore, with the city beginning its South Shore Park project. The work began by lowering Lake Bemidji and inserting a temporary dam to allow contractors to remove wood debris and restore the beach land.

The action was needed as the area was once the site of a lumber mill. The project also included renovating a dilapidated city building, making it a beach house for the public.

The project was finished in summer 2017. It joined other public use areas along the lakefront, with others including the Nymore Beach Public Water Access and the Paul Bunyan Trail.

While the city was doing its park project, a private, $5.6 million apartment development was also underway. In 2017, the four-story complex with 70 units, titled South Beach Apartments, opened just west of the park.

A year after South Beach Apartments opened, it appeared more housing was soon to follow. In 2017, ICON Architectural Group of Grand Forks purchased $520,000 worth of land on the South Shore, with the intention of building a 29-unit condominium complex. However, the project has not moved forward.

"ICON purchased the lot from us, but never built their condos," Mathews said. "It's land just east of where the Bixby condos will be going. They still own the land, but we reserve the right to buy it back. So, we're probably going to want to talk to ICON to see what's going on with that lot."

While the other condo project isn't moving forward, Mrazek said there's enough going on along the South Shore to make it a great location.

"We're one lot away from the beach, the trail is right in front, the boat access is nearby, and plus you have the Tavern and Green Mill there. We'll probably be buying and providing some Beavers season tickets, too, because it'd be good to see more people going to the event center, too."