by CHRIS ROGERS
Construction is about to begin on the Main Square Community project at the Hardee’s block in Winona. The site’s approximately 145 parking spots are now closed off to parking, and contractors expect to demolish the former Hardee’s restaurant building and begin major earthwork this month. The developer, Main Square Development, LLC, released additional designs last month and announced that the building will include a new restaurant with a patio.
After years of slowly collecting property on the block, the city’s Port Authority paid $800,000 last year for the final piece of the block — the Hardee’s restaurant — and started showing off the site to perspective developers. This spring, Fastenal founder Bob Kierlin announced that his newly created company, Main Square Development, LLC, and his family’s private foundation, the Hiawatha Education Foundation, planned to buy the Hardee’s block from the city. City officials did not use a competitive process to sell the land, but described Main Square Development’s offer as generous. The company plans to construct a U-shaped building with 20,000 square feet of commercial space, 60 upscale apartment units, underground parking for its tenants, and plans for another future addition that would add another 30 apartments. Meanwhile, on the northwest corner of the lot, the Hiawatha Education Foundation plans to construct a Montessori preschool. In a sale finalized last Friday, Kierlin’s company and the foundation paid the city $1.9 million for the block — almost equal to the amount the city had spent on consolidating the properties. The only public assistance Kierlin requested for the project was to cover the cost of environmental cleanup work. A $450,000 state grant and $150,000 in city funds will pay for removing and abating hazardous materials from the soil.
Designs submitted to the city last month show a two- to four-story structure, clad largely in brick and metal with Beisanz stone accents, some concrete block sections, and apartment balconies extending from the upper floors. Pete Schwab of the contracting firm Schwab, LLC, said one of the building’s planned tenants is a restaurant that would be new to Winona, though he declined to say exactly what restaurant. The plans call for a patio seating area and drive-through pickup window. “We’ve had great success so far on leasing out the commercial share,” he stated.
Schwab described some of the apartments as being on the high end of the current market rate in Winona and some of the apartments as being more upscale than that. Schwab said there has been so much interest in the apartments that Main Square Development might start building the second phase before the first phase is finished in early 2020, but it depends on whether that demand continues. “The idea will be that that will end up being upscale housing as well, but that will depend a little bit on how much interest there is in that housing. That is obviously going to be significantly more expensive than any housing in Winona — apartment housing right now in Winona,” he stated.
“It’s going to be quite the development,” Winona Port Authority Commission Chair Mike Cichanowski said.
Some of the project’s designs may be viewed online at www.portofwinona.com in the Port Authority Commission’s July 12, 2018, agenda. Main Square Development representatives said they would release more designs later this month.