City of Tower hosts project vision meeting

NOVEMBER 17, 2016 — The City of Tower tonight hosted a public information meeting to showcase planned developments for the city. Steve Altenburg welcomed everyone to the event as a member of the Tower Historic Harbor Renaissance committee.

Mary Batinich, Lake Vermilion Cultural Center and Tower Women’s Club, outlined her vision for the future Lake Vermilion Cultural Center building and the Women’s Club activities conducted to make Tower’s Main Street appealing to visitors. The Women’s Club has been financing and implementing flower planting efforts throughout the city for as long as anyone can remember. The Tower Women’s Club installs the large flower baskets on the Hwy 169 bridge and does select plantings in other areas of the city, like the new flower beds outside the civic center and the flower-filled wheelbarrows which were located on the triangle separating Main Street from Hwy 169 all summer. According to Batinich future plans include greatly expanding the flower plantings and creating directional and informational signs to make Tower seem even more inviting to visitors. Plans for the Lake Vermilion Cultural Center’s St. Mary’s Hall are ongoing and the facility is undergoing restoration along with extensive new construction. The beautiful, original stained glass windows have been fully restored and are now awaiting the building restoration to become complete so they can be installed back into the former church building, according to Batinich.

There is ample evidence that the old St. Mary’s Episcopal church, which was moved to Tower’s Main Street last autumn to become the Lake Vermilion Cultural Center, was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert. Many of the features in the Tower church can also be found in the Camp Memorial Chapel, St. Martin’s By-the-Lake Episcopal Church located in Minnetonka Beach, Minnesota, Batinich said. When the facility is completed it is expected that it will accommodate seating for 180 to 190 people, depending on the capacity the fire code will allow, Batinich said.

The Tower Women’s Club and the Vermilion Cultural Center activities are largely funded by private donations and community fundraisers.

A group of people has formed a private non-profit corporation under the name Tower-Soudan Community Development Corporation. Marshall Helmberger has been the public spokesman for this organization and spoke on behalf of this new corporation at this meeting. Helmberger outlined the corporation’s plans to conduct economic development, utilizing the City of Tower’s assets. Tower has been receiving a lot of attention from people and organizations interested in developing it, according to Helmberger. “I think you will begin to see it stream roll and see a lot more activity,” Helmberger said.

According to Helmberger the new non-profit corporation already has seven people on its board of directors and has established a mission statement and by-laws. At last week’s city council meeting, Helmberger appeared before the council asking it to consider providing $10,000 in its 2017 budget to fund the corporation and provide money to hire an executive director. The non-profit corporation is seeking up to $100,000 in grant monies according to Helmberger. Working on one of the grants, Nancy Larson presented, last week, the Tower City Council with a letter seeking its approval to serve as administrator, as the responsible governmental agency, for the grant. Larson’s letter also asked the city to be prepared to match some of the funds acquired by the grant, although the match could be made by expenditures that the city was also incurring in other parts of the city’s budget.

The details of the organization, its mission and bylaws have been kept somewhat vague, however, The News was able to ascertain that its acknowledged registered agents are Troy Swanson and Helmberger. Its registered address is 414 Main Street, Tower, an address shared with the Timberjay.

“In order to make the harbor successful we need to make the town successful,” Orlyn Kringstad said during his presentation on Tower 2025 L. L. C., a limited liability company formed in Minnesota in January 2016. The company plans to build 20 condominium units on Tower harbor land it acquired from the city this autumn. Unfortunately, the city has also kept details on this land transfer vague, although it is generally understood throughout the community that the city is still working on the details of the transfer and in exchange for the lands the city will receive one dollar. Tower Vision 2025 is expecting to sell the 20 condominium units at a price between $298,000 and $375,000, Kringstad reported. Dewey Thornbeck has been retained as the architect and the units have been downsized about 20 percent and will run from 1,480 square feet to 1,782 square feet in size, Kringstad said. “The project also might include a harbor family restaurant and other retail businesses,” he added.

Tower 2025 is also looking at other developments in the city. Kringstad said that he has been in contact with the old Tower marina owners and the Mesojedec family about the Marjo Motel property. He would like to see a new hotel development on the Marjo site and has met with Your Boat Club LLC to discuss the potential of the old marina property. Your Boat Club’s business model is to utilize its nine Minnesota marina facilities as a membership-based club, where people who belong can use boats at any location and it also offers rental boats to the general public.

Picking up on an idea that was discussed at the August 8 Tower City Council meeting, Kringstad also announced that he was in negotiations with the owners of a parcel of land located south of the airport “the proposed air-park facility” which never materialized. He outlined a concept which would see the creation of an area in Tower where affordable, small footprint, year-round, sustainable seasonal homes “garden cottages” could be built. The idea is to create affordable, energy efficient and sustainable housing, Kringstad said.

The legal work is being completed on the harbor condominium project and Kringstad hopes to see a start to the project next summer. The “garden cottages,” hotel development and old marina project are all in the earliest stages of development and simply remain proposals, or ideas, at this time. The owners of the potential sites for these developments have been contacted, but Kringstad was only giving a preview of his ideas as he has not reached any agreements with any of the property owners.

Regrettably, only 12 people attended the event, one-half of them were people who actually reside in Tower. Only one city council member, Alderman Joan Broten, attended. Poor attendance should not, however, reflect a lack of interest from the community. Instead it seems to imply that people just didn’t know about the event or heard about it at the last minute. “It would be nice to know about these meetings,” one Tower Main Street business owner said, expressing her displeasure at the lack of publicity. It definitely seems like the event suffered from a lack of promotion. The city should have advertised in The Tower News or posted a notice for free on