The saga continues: Fergus Falls cuts ties with developer of historic Kirkbride building


It's back to square one for the City of Fergus Falls and future of the historic Kirkbride building.

The city council voted unanimously Monday night to cut ties with developer Ray Willey of Historic Properties Inc., which had been in discussions with the city to fix up and repurpose the old Regional Treatment Center known locally as the Kirkbride building, Forum News reports.

It's huge structure that looks sort of a like a castle, and it housed patients with mental illness from the 1890s until it was closed in 2005 (read a history of the building here).

After months of discussion, the city decided the differences between the two parties were too great and terminated all future discussions with the developer.

The funding problem

The main issue: The sides couldn't agree on funding for the project by the July 10 deadline. Willey had requested the city give the project $350,000 upfront – no restrictions or guarantees attached – for the first phase of the multimillion dollar project. (That's half the amount Willey had requested last fall.)

“If we gave the money without condition and they weren’t successful, that is obviously money that is taken away from another developer or from the city being able to do something tangible with the money,” Ward 4 Council Member Anthony Hicks told the Fergus Falls Journal.

So the city offered the developer $350,000 in the form of a grant upon completion of the project, the paper says, and was willing to do other improvements around the property that totaled more than $1 million.

In the final hours before Monday's meeting, Willey agreed to the city's offer, but the city council opted to terminate the partnership and move to find a different developer to repurpose the historic building – but it must do so soon, the Fergus Falls Journal says.

The city, which purchased the Kirkbride from the state of Minnesota for $1 in 2007, was granted $4 million in state money to help pay for the cost of renovation or demolition. That state grant expires at the end of 2016, so time is a factor.

City officials have scheduled a work session for Aug. 10 for public input on the future of the Kirkbride, the Fergus Falls Journal notes.

Friends of the Kirkbride – a vocal group of community residents that has been fighting for years to keep the historic building safe from the wrecking ball – called Monday night's news disappointing, but hope that the city will find another developer soon, according to posts in the Facebook group.

You can read more about the building's development saga here.

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