Say NO to Funding Demo of Fergus Falls' Kirkbride
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The City of Fergus Falls recently made the decision to request $8.9 million in state bonding for demolition of our community's most historic and significant asset, the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center (or "Kirkbride Building"). These bills are being sponsored by Representative Nornes and Senator Ingebrigtsen.
We urge that the Capital Investment Committee and Minnesota State Legislators deny these bills for the following reasons:
1. The decision to seek out more state funds for demolition makes waste of more than $7.1 million in state money that was already granted to Fergus Falls for the building in 2007. More than $4.5 million of this was spent on improvements like street lighting, water and sewer replacement, demolition of the incinerator and more, improving the building for potential developers and public use. To use more state funds to demolish the building would be taking a giant step backwards from the strides the City and other community leaders have made to find a creative, viable development plan for the building.
2. After demolition, the City has no known development plan for the Kirkbride grounds and the remaining administrative tower that they intend to preserve. This is cause for great concern for local residents and sends mixed messages about the community's future, considering that the City is spending time and energy purchasing other vacant properties in the community that have little to no historic significance or cultural attachment. Not only does the community deserve to know what will happen to the Kirkbride grounds if demolition happens, and who will benefit from this disruption, but if state funds are paying for this demolition, we believe it's only responsible for State representatives to ask for a clear plan of what happens after its spent and the community is left with an empty lot and an empty tower.
3. Demolition of this building will affect the historic tax credit status for current redevelopment efforts by the Campus Development Group on the out buildings of the campus (Campus View Apartments), sending the message that those who have invested in our community and in the Kirkbride Campus do not matter-- including individual residents who are now renting apartments and living just yards from the demolition zone.
4. The City claims they “have done everything they can,” and cite public opinion as their reasoning, but the truth is much more complex than that. Hundreds of dedicated and active citizens feel that their voices have been ignored throughout the last decade of decision making processes regarding the building's future. The result has been overall disengagement and a feeling that everyday citizens have no say in community's future. Additionally, those who have tried to lead efforts to find creative solutions, including developers, entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders and historians, have been shut out of every stage of the decision-making process. For example, a Mayor's Kirkbride Advisory Committee, a group of individuals interested in working with the city on a creative and positive plan and solution to the building’s future, was dissolved in early 2017 without notice or warning and after only a few months of intentional efforts to build the partnerships necessary to effectively preserve and re purpose the building. This is just one of many examples of willful obstructionism to positive, innovative, community-based approaches.
5. The significant historic and cultural identity of the building brings hundreds of visitors to Fergus Falls each year even as it sits vacant, and provides the type of culture tourism that most mid-sized communities would pay money to call their own. Nonprofits like Springboard for the Arts and the Otter Tail County Historical Society rely on this public interest and do responsive programming, such as tours, arts and culture events, and artist residencies that have kept people engaged and draw visitors to the campus and the region. These programs have been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtPlace America, the Mardag Foundation, and more, and have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Star Tribune, and Christian Science Monitor among others. Additionally, community events such as Summerfest, Melhaven Music Festival, the Classic Cars show, the MS Tram, and more, rely on the Kirkbride campus as a venue. The loss of this building would significantly change the landscape of tourism in Fergus Falls, resulting in the loss of actual revenue to local businesses, but perhaps even worse, the loss of our community's unique identity and heritage.
6. The Kirkbride Building is legally considered a Historical Resource because it is on the National Register and therefore deserves the protection from the MN Environmental Rights Act (MERA) which states "that each person is entitled by right to the protection, preservation, and enhancement of … natural resources located within the state and that each person has the responsibility to contribute to the protection, preservation, and enhancement thereof. The legislature further declares its policy to create and maintain within the state conditions under which human beings and nature can exist in productive harmony in order that present and future generations may enjoy … natural resources with which this state has been endowed. Accordingly, it is in the public interest to provide an adequate civil remedy to protect … natural resources located within the state from pollution, impairment, or destruction.” Minn. Stat. § 116B.01 (2010).
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