The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) bought the Winona AmericInn for $3.35 million dollars last Wednesday. Now, all of the properties needed for the bridge project are either in Mn/DOT's possession or on their way there. Mn/DOT filed legal petitions to seize Severson's Sinclair gas station and Winona Leasing and Sales last week.
Mn/DOT Project Manager Terry Ward declined to comment on whether an arrangement had been made to relocate the AmericInn in Winona or whether an arrangement to recreate the hotel was being sought. AmericInn owner Catherine Nichols, of Lake City, was not immediately available for comment.
Ward said the deal was significant in insuring that Mn/DOT stays on schedule to obtain all of the properties by January 1, 2015.
City wanted property owners to waive right of first refusal
A small part of the AmericInn property and portions of properties immediately east of Huff Street will be part of a "turn back" area, that will not be kept as permanent right of way. Normally, property owners have the right of first refusal to buy back these areas. If they decline, Mn/DOT may sell the property to the city.
According to documents obtained by the Winona Post, during a January meeting with Mn/DOT officials, city of Winona officials requested that landowners waive their right of first refusal as part of purchase agreements with Mn/DOT.
Ward confirmed that the city had discussed landowners waiving their right to buy back the excess right of way, but said that, as far as he was aware of, Mn/DOT had not asked property owners to waive those rights and they have not waived their right of first refusal.
Conceptual plans for the Levee Park project included a 100,000-square-foot river interpretive center and adjacent parking lot in the turnback area.