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Downtown Minot has a good year

Year brings new businesses, more investment

File Photo Minot’s first parklet, located outside Prairie Sky Breads, was a popular place after opening in early September.

When Dakota Burger owner Jake Lockrem decided to re-brand the business as The Iron Horse Kitchen + Bar this past year, he knew he wanted the location to remain in Minot’s downtown.

“It’s growing. It’s a wonderful place to be. It’s got a great atmosphere. All the changes downtown have done nothing but better it,” he said.

Downtown Minot has seen new businesses, building renovations and increased investment during 2021.

In June, the Minot City Council voted unanimously to designate up to $1.1 million toward economic development from sales tax dollars that otherwise would go into the MAGIC Fund.

Among spending proposals were $943,000 for a downtown building facade improvement program; up to $50,000 for consultant services for a citywide leakage study and data analysis; and up to $7,000 for conference registration and travel. In addition, up to $100,000 in Economic Development Administration matching funds could be used for studies on reuse of Trinity properties and a permanent site for food trucks.

Cole Anderson, owner of Up Your Axe, instructs Bailey Nordgaard on axe throwing at downtown Minot’s fall festival booth Sept. 18. Up Your Axe is one of the newest businesses downtown.

The initial facade projects approved were Auslander LLC for renovation work at 24 1st St. NE, which houses 701 Realty and Auslander Apartments, and S-J One Eleven LLC for renovation work at 111 Central Avenue, housing Tom’s Coin, Thai Hot and Whiskey Nine.

The Minot City Council approved a one-year contract with Retail Coach for $47,500 to look at how well Minot’s retail needs are being met, how much retail leakage to other markets is occurring and retail opportunities for existing and new companies. Retail Coach also will be able to examine demographics and study customers based on their opinions, interests and activities.

Although Retail Coach will be serving the entire city, it will look particularly at downtown and the impact of the Air Force base.

Big news came in Dec. 6 when EPIC Companies of Minot and West Fargo announced the purchase of the former Midwest Federal building, known as the Big M building, in downtown Minot. The company plans to renovate the building into commercial space and apartments and refurbish the existing “M” on the roof to look more like the original that had been installed in 1971.

The renovation of the building at 21 East Central by Creedence Energy Services has provided a new location for the business. It also is providing a downtown location for Companions for Children, a new axe-throwing bar called Up Your Axe that opened in September and The Iron Horse Kitchen + Bar, which opened in early November.

Raea Pirrotta, left, is store manager for Weekender, which is owned by her daughter, Madeline Knutson, center, and her mother-in-law, Shannon Knutson, right. They are shown in this photo by Jillian Batson.

Weekender, a women’s and home goods shop, opened in June in on First Street Southeast. Madeline Knutson, whose creative and merchandizing talents are behind the operation, owns the family-run business with her mother-in-law, Shannon Knutson. Her mother, Raea Pirrotta, who has 20 years of retail experience, is store manager.

The intent from the beginning was to locate downtown, and the women say they found not only the perfect building in the Aksal Group’s High Third complex but also great landlords and a strong sense of community.

Pirrotta said there’s a noncompetitive atmosphere in which downtown businesses refer customers to each other, knowing that each store’s success supports other shops. Downtown visitors also have made the store feel welcomed.

“So many people are trying to shop local, and I so appreciate that,” Shannon Knutson said.

In addition to clothing, Weekenders sells high-quality items made by family businesses, including an olive oil from California and Jacobsen’s Salts from Oregon. It sells teas, candles, cards and other gift items Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 pm.

Other new businesses during the year included The Olive Branch, located in the Fountain Plaza on Main Street; Sprout Pediatric Therapy on First Street Southeast; Moon Waters Shoppe in the Main Medical Building; Nok Back Tavern, previously the Ice Box, on Third Street; and Guilty Sweets, which opened in late December on Central Avenue. Also, the Drop Zone, a military-themed bar, opened at the end of December 2020 on Main Street.

Under a new city ordinance allowing streeteries and parklets on certain streets, the first parklet opened just after Labor Day in front of Prairie Sky Breads.

Streeteries and parklets are platforms with fencing on three sides that extend from a downtown sidewalk’s curb into a parallel parking space in front of the owner’s property. Both allow for outdoor seating, but streeteries are more focused on dining use. The City of Minot allows the platforms to be in place from April 15 to Oct. 15.

Additionally, this past fall, the Minot Area Council of the Arts took over the lease on the city-owned Carnegie Center from the local Carnegie Association with plans to increase utilization for the arts.

The city council approved Minot’s historic Carnegie Center for $50,800 in upgrades. The arts council will use the funds for an architectural assessment to identify facility issues and the cost of remedies and begin structural upgrades.

In October, the sale closed on the downtown Trinity Health property on Burdick Expressway that will become the new Center for Technical Education. Remodeling is the next step for the project, which has been earmarked $3.54 million from the city’s National Disaster Resilience funds. Minot State University and Dakota College at Bottineau are in discussions on programming for the center.

An additional $5 million in resilience money is helping with a major upgrade to the Milton Young Towers apartment complex downtown. Renovations include updates to mechanical systems, fire safety, power backup systems, waste stack replacement and high-efficiency plumbing and lighting installation. Eighteen additional two-bedroom apartments will be created.

In December, the city took bids on rehabilitation of the former Wells Fargo building into a new city hall. The low bid was $9.5 million. The city purchased the building in February for $2.6 million. The city set aside $7.75 million from resilience funds for the project.

The rehabilitation project will bring city offices into the heart of downtown and provide more space for administrative offices while giving the police department the ability to expand in the current city hall building. The emergency dispatch center would move to the new city hall.

Also at the end of the year, Visit Minot was considering a potential move to downtown. Plans for a new headquarters are contingent upon whether Visit Minot is able to obtain an Economic Development Administration grant.

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