by CHRIS ROGERS
In downtown Winona, the last piece of former bridge land was sold this month. A company belonging to Josh Severson of Severson Oil bought back the former Sinclair gas station site at Huff and Second streets. Severson said he hasn’t decided how to use the property or whether rebuilding a gas station on the site would be possible.
In the mid-2010s, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) acquired and demolished numerous downtown properties to clear way for the construction of the new interstate bridge. Now that construction is complete, land used for construction staging is no longer needed, and MnDOT offered the excess land for sale to its former owners and to local governments.
Severson’s company previously owned a gas station at Huff and Second streets, and early this month bought back that property from MnDOT for $280,000, according to state records.
“We did buy it back and plan to do something down there, but we haven’t decided what yet,” Severson told the Post.
In 2016 and 2017, the Winona city leaders revised downtown zoning rules to disallow new gas stations in most of downtown. As the new rules were proposed, Severson expressed interest in potentially rebuilding a station at Huff and Second streets, and city leaders ultimately zoned that area so that gas stations are allowed.
While the zoning allows it, the feasibility of building a new station is another matter. The site Severson was able to buy is roughly half the size of the original property. MnDOT retained a large chunk of the original site to hold a stormwater retention pond.
Asked if it would be possible to rebuild a gas station on the remaining land, Severson responded, “The site is a lot smaller than what it was before. We had the station, and we certainly couldn’t build anything like what we had before, and some things have changed about the property, but we’re just considering all our options right now.“
Just next door to the Severson site, the owners of the former AmericInn — Lake City, Minn.,-based Windward Corporation — also bought back their former hotel property from MnDOT last fall. Because of MnDOT’s stormwater pond, that property is less than half of its former size.
Most of the other former bridge land was either bought by Winona County for its new jail or by Fastenal for a potential parking lot. Fastenal has all but acquired an entire block at 150 Huff Street from former owners and the city of Winona Port Authority, who themselves recently purchased the properties from MnDOT.