The devastating flood of 2011 claimed countless properties in the city of Minot, including the landmark Oak Park Center. Today the center sits empty. Many of the doors are boarded up. Weeds are growing along damaged store fronts and through cracks that have emerged in the parking lot, but the center may soon undergo a transformation that will bring it to life once more.
Longtime real estate developer and owner Earl Allen of Minot owns the property, which includes the Oak Park Theater and Riviera Lounge. Those businesses were closed due to the flood and have not recovered.
"The Riviera had about seven feet of water. It got shallower towards the theater," said Allen. "The property is the best buy in town, right on an east-west traffic artery."
The Oak Park Center was flooded in 2011 and remains vacant today. Several buyers have expressed interest in purchasing and improving the property.
Among the businesses forced to vacate the Oak Park Center during the 2011 flood was Video Magic. The vehicle in the foreground is a 1946 Ford wrecker that was initially used in Tioga by Earl Allen, the longtime owner of Oak Park Center.
The artery referred to by Allen is busy Fourth Avenue Northwest, which runs just outside the entrance to Oak Park. Oak Park Center is located immediately north of Oak Park. According to realtor Gary Kramlich of Minot, the agent tasked with handling the potential sale of Oak Park Center, the property includes more than 72,000 square feet of buildings situated on nearly eight acres.
"The center is for sale. We've got four offers on it now," said Kramlich. "They are very viable groups. One of them, from Michigan, has 35 malls. An Alaska group has six malls and one from Las Vegas has three. The asking price is $1.95 million."
Before any of the offers can be finalized the second phase of an environmental assessment must be completed. According to Kramlich, an initial environmental check of the property was not done as it should have been.
"We're correcting it now. By the end of September we should know everything," said Kramlich. "We know it won't be hard to clean up."
The environmental assessment was initiated due to a dry cleaning business that operated at the Oak Park Center for many years.
Max Patzner was an employee of Video Magic at the time of the 2011 flood. Video Magic had a location in Oak Park Center along with their current location on South Broadway. The Oak Park Center store, said Patzner, was an important part of the community.
"The local people in that area would come to rent videos. You pretty much knew everybody that came in. It was sad to see it go," said Patzner.
Patzner said that the move to get out of the way of the flood was a hasty one. It was also complicated because several employees owned homes in the flood zone that required immediate attention as well.
"They took breaks from their own home to help the owners pack up the store," recalled Patzner. "It was rather quick. We packed up the movies but had to leave shelves and things behind."
Minoters have watched with keen interest to see how the city rebounds from the dreadful flood of 2011. Sometime in the next few months improvements may come to the Oak Park Center, improvements that will be a welcome addition to a very busy and visible section of the city.