FD council moves forward with mall plan

Adds Sears site to urban renewal area

The Fort Dodge City Council on Monday cleared the way for potentially using tax increment financing to reimburse a developer for demolishing the former Sears store at Crossroads Mall.

The council voted unanimously to add the Sears site to the Center City and Industrial Park Urban Renewal Areas.

A property has to be in those areas to be eligible for tax increment financing, which occurs when increased property tax revenue generated in a specific area is set aside to be reinvested in that area.

Under a proposal introduced in May, the building’s owner, Blessing Enterprises, of St. Charles, Missouri, would seek $397,595 from the city government to pay for knocking down the former Sears store. Blessing Enterprises would pay the demolition contractor, and the city would use tax increment financing money to reimburse the company over a period of years. But that reimbursement would only occur if the company builds something new there that generates additional property tax revenue.

The Sears store at 207 S. 25th St. opened in 1964 and closed in January 2015.

The building appears to be part of Crossroads Mall even though it is a separate property with a different owner.

Melissa Verschoor, the general manager of Crossroads Mall, asked the City Council how it would address the connection between the two buildings.

“If you move forward with helping Mr. Blessing, will you also help with restructuring the party wall between the two buildings?” she asked.

She did not get a firm answer.

“I really don’t know,” said Councilman Dave Flattery, who was presiding over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Matt Bemrich. “I can only assume that arrangements would have to be made.”

Verschoor said she wants to make sure that the status of the wall is addressed.

“That’s going to have a huge impact on our building,” she said.

She added that there’s a “huge sinkhole” in the part of the parking lot owned by Blessing Enterprises. She said it was created about two years ago when a water line was shut off and the resulting hole was filled with gravel rather than cement. Shutting off that water line, she said, also shut off a nearby fire hydrant. She said she would like to see that hydrant restored.

The council did not address any of her specific concerns. City Attorney Mark Crimmins said the only issue for the council to act on Monday was adding the property to the urban renewal areas.

The potential demolition of the Sears store is tied to a potential new development of the site. Earlier this year, representatives of Blessing Enterprises approached city officials with a proposal for a $1.75 million development for 1.5 acres of the 6.5 acre site. Details of that development have not been publicly disclosed.