Godfather’s Pizza closes
by CHRIS ROGERS
It is a lot of money for vacant land in downtown Winona. In one of the biggest real-estate deals on Winona’s riverfront since state buyouts for the Winona bridge project, the former Tri-Mac lumber property sold for $965,000 earlier this month. The empty lot is tucked away between the Rivers Edge condos and the interstate bridge, just west of Levee Park, and Winonans have been speculating about its potential for years. An Indiana firm bought the land. Its plans are still a mystery.
La Crescent-based developers Richard Huber and Allan McCormick purchased the half-finished condominium building, the former lumberyard, and an office building from Winona developer Dave McNally for $1.4 million back in 2013. Huber and McCormick finished and sold the condos — now valued at combined $4.6 million — and demolished the lumberyard.
On January 8, Huber and McCormick’s company finalized a deal with Shipshewana, Ind.,-based Rock, LLC, for the former lumberyard site. The Indiana firm paid $965,000 in cash for the land, according to state sale records. The company’s agent, Robert Weaver, declined to comment for this story.
“It certainly has my attention,” Winona County Assessor Steve Hacken said of the sale. “Maybe one of the reasons it has my attention is, what else is coming?”
Hacken’s office is charged with determining the market value of all the real estate in the county for tax purposes. His office’s assessments determine how much property tax owners must pay. This sale price was more than quadruple his assessment of the land value: $237,000.
This sale is an outlier, Hacken said. Currently, his office values prime downtown land as being worth about $10 per square foot. This sale equates to about $16 per square foot, he stated. Out on Highway 61, there have been commercial land sales with similar price ranges, but this is somewhat high for downtown Winona, he stated. It is a little difficult to accurately assess the value of vacant land in downtown Winona, Hacken said. Most downtown real estate deals include buildings, and it can be hard to parse out building value and land value. “It’s hard for us to know what the market is for bare land when we don’t have any activity,” he stated. One outlier will not change how Hacken assesses downtown land values, but if there are more sales in this price range, that could.
“We frankly don’t know what their plan for that property is,” Hacken said. The company would not say, Hacken explained. In transaction paperwork, Rock, LLC stated that its plans for the future use of the site are the same as its current use: “unimproved/vacant land/commercial.”
“I guess if we have some patience, we’ll see,” Hacken said. “Because I’m guessing you’re not going to leave a $1-million piece of land sitting around for too much longer.”
When he and his partner first bought it, Huber said they did not have immediate plans for the former Tri-Mac site, but that maybe someday it could host a second condominium or maybe a hotel. Later, in 2014, Huber said that he had been in contact with multiple hotel developers who were interested in the site.
“I’m really interested to see what they’re going to do with it,” Hacken said. “I have no idea. It’s a nice property, and it’s a lot bigger property than the condo property is.”
Riverfront pizza shop closes
It is one of only two restaurants in Winona with a view of the Mississippi River, and last Thursday, it closed. The news that Godfather’s Pizza had closed its Winona location came somewhat suddenly for customers. In a Facebook post, franchisee owner Brad Price wrote, “We want to thank you for many good years in Winona. It’s been a tough decision, but after 28 years, we’re closing the doors.”
The restaurant property itself has not changed hands, and it is unclear what its future may be. For years, it has been owned and, as of Tuesday afternoon, was still owned by Bar Partnership, an Iowa company registered to the same address as ROC Management and Associates, the regional management company for Godfather’s Pizza. A company representative declined to comment.