BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji City Council will discuss the future of the Rail Corridor area Monday night.
At a work session, the council is scheduled to speak with officials from Sanford Health and Greater Bemidji Economic Development about an idea for the region. Located south of the city's downtown, 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. To make the land suitable for development, the city has made intentions to apply for grants from the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development and Pollution Control Agency.
On Dec. 7, the council learned that Sanford Health and Greater Bemidji had been in early phases of communication regarding a wellness center and entertainment district for the area. According to city documents, schematics of the concept show a mix of development, including residential and retail buildings, as well as an ice rink, aquatics facility, wellness center and other multi-purpose structures.
A few years ago, Sanford Health and Greater Bemidji had proposed an estimated $27 million wellness center and sports complex to be built on the healthcare provider's campus in the northern area of the city. It was expected to be 175,000 square feet.
The idea was shelved in 2018, based on an issue with funding. As part of the proposal, there was an idea to use hospitality tax dollars to fund a sports commission, which would bring in tournaments to the facility and create revenue. City officials noted that state statute wouldn't allow tax dollars to be used for such a commission.
Along with a discussion on the idea with Sanford Health and Greater Bemidji, the Council plans to review leases of buildings near the corridor as well.