City delays rail corridor work to focus on pandemic
BEMIDJI -- The wait will continue for development on an area just south of Bemidji known as the rail corridor with city staff focusing on responding to the coronavirus.
During its meeting Monday, the Bemidji Council learned the city was unsuccessful in receiving a grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to assist in redeveloping the area. The city can apply again for state grants, but staff recommended the process be pushed back because of the COVID-19 situation.
"It's kind of hit a wall," City Manager Nate Mathews said. "We just don't feel it's a good time now to submit a new application for a grant."
The corridor extends from Park Avenue Northwest to land near the Mississippi River and is bordered by existing rail lines. Before the city purchased the land in 2003 for utility work, it was the site of gas stations and a coal gasification plant.
As part of the process to make the land suitable for development, the city is looking to apply for grants from DEED and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. According to staff, once the land is suitable, it could be used for commercial and residential development.
"That sounds like good advice to me," said Mayor Rita Albrecht. "I think DEED is pretty busy with lots of other things. It makes sense for us to reevaluate again in November."