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BUSINESS: Commercial development sees uptick in Bemidji

ICON Architectural Group of Grand Forks closed on a purchase of land from the city of Bemidji in October for $520,955.82. The company plans to develop a mixed use building with condominium space along the lakefront. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- While permits for residential projects fell in 2017 for the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board, commercial developments saw a major increase.

“Commercial-wise, we saw a big spike. We saw a huge amount of development this past year,” said Casey Mai, planning director with the JPB. “One of the big factors has been all the redevelopment. Many businesses have been redeveloping and it’s been happening right along Paul Bunyan Drive.”

Along with the redevelopment, Mai said the JPB has permitted its fair share of new business projects, too. One of the examples Mai listed was the new MedExpress at the corner of Paul Bunyan Drive and Bemidji Avenue North.

“That was a great project for us. They went above and beyond our ordinance requirements and even did additional things,” Mai said. “It’s a good addition for that site. You have an old abandoned building (the former bowling alley) demolished and replaced.

“So, all together, the commercial development across our community, along our main corridors, was probably our biggest success. I hope we can continue to do that.”

As for the dip in in residential projects, Mai said one of the reasons is simply the amount of space available.

“When you look at Northern Township, there’s just a lot less land out there,” Mai said. “Over the last few years, we’ve had a lot more development take place there. But, the more development that takes place, the less land there is.”

Most of the residential development that does continue to happen, Mai said, has been for multi-family housing.

“We are seeing that area spike. A lot of people come into our offices asking about starting multi-family units like apartments,” Mai said. “That seems to be where the money is at. There’s quite a bit of development happening in the city with that type of housing already, such as the South Beach Apartments, and I know we have another developer coming in next week interested in building more units.”

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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