Council OKs early steps to aid mall development

Moehnke: Don’t forget about other plans, commitments

Measures that will enable the Fort Dodge government to provide up to $5.6 million to support the redevelopment of the Crossroads Mall site were approved by the City Council Monday night.

While he supported those resolutions, Councilman Terry Moehnke urged his fellow councilmembers to remember some other projects and plans the city has committed to, especially some improvements planned for the northwest side of town.

He said the council needs to ”honor some of the commitments to some of the other plans.”

The council adopted a master plan for the Northwest River District in October 2015. But Moehnke said so far painting a mural on the old grain silo on Hawkeye Avenue is the only part of that plan that has been completed.

He said he’s worried that the assistance for a potential redevelopment of the mall will “pull money away from the Northwest River District.”

Mayor Matt Bemrich said support for the mall won’t hurt the Northwest River District plan.

“This money should not affect that money,” he said. “They’re on parallel paths within the capital improvement plan.”

Bemrich said the Northwest River District plan isn’t advancing as fast as anyone had hoped. But he said that money is being set aside for that plan, including $3.5 million for improvements to U.S. Highway 169.

Councilman Neven Conrad said he shares Moehnke’s concern.

But he added that a redevelopment of the mall site “is way too big of an opportunity for the city to pass up.”

”It could be a defining moment for the city of Fort Dodge,” he added.

The basis for Monday’s council action is the potential purchase of the mall, which is owned by Namdar Realty Group, Mason Asset Management and CH Capital, all of Great Neck, New York.

Last month, Bemrich and City Manager David Fierke reported that a developer, who they did not name, has made a written offer to buy the mall.

That developer is now in a 120-day due diligence period that will end Dec. 4.

In a report to the council, Fierke wrote, “A mall redevelopment of this nature is most likely not probable without a significant investment from the city.”

To help the developer, city officials are poised to offer up to $5.6 million.

Bemrich said that money would come from either a general obligation bond or a tax increment financing bond. He said a general obligation bond would have a lower interest rate.

Bemrich said that no matter what financing method is used, the debt will be paid off with increased property tax revenue from the mall site.

On Monday, the council passed resolutions to start the process of issuing both general obligation bonds and tax increment financing bonds. Bemrich said one of those processes will be dropped in favor of the other.

All of the resolutions were approved unanimously.