Cottage Grove officials like plan for LA Fitness; say hold off on community center vote
The city of Cottage Grove should hold off on a community center referendum and allow a developer to move forward with plans for an LA Fitness in a vacant commercial site, a group of city council and advisory commissioners said Wednesday, calling the decision a "no-brainer" for the city.
Plans to redevelop a retail building near 80th Street and East Point Douglas Road that formerly housed a Home Depot are rapidly advancing to a formal proposal before the city, city officials have said. The linchpin of the redevelopment plans that have been discussed with city officials is a large LA Fitness gym, Mayor Myron Bailey told members of the Cottage Grove City Council, Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority at a workshop on Wednesday.
That comes as talks between the city and YMCA on partnering on a proposed community center have cooled over how much Cottage Grove would contribute toward construction of the estimated $14 million facility. City officials who spoke Wednesday were supportive of delaying a planned referendum on the project to allow the private redevelopment plan to move forward.
Officials from the YMCA and the developer -- who has not yet purchased the Home Depot property and has not been identified by city officials -- have told the city they would be reluctant to move forward if the other plan did, too.
"There's a private developer that's willing to come into the community and redevelop a building that needs to be redeveloped," EDA member Tony Jurgens said. "Let him do it."
The Home Depot building, which sits in one of the city's busiest commercial areas, has remained empty since 2008 when the home improvement chain closed dozens of stores across the country. Redevelopment of the property has been a priority for city officials since then.
A long-time priority, too, though, has been the development of a community center. A two-year study completed by a city task force last year recommended moving ahead with a community center project by partnering with the YMCA and putting funding for the project before voters in a referendum.
But, with the possibility of a large, private fitness center on the way, officials said they backed re-evaluating the community center project.
"It's a no-brainer," planning commissioner Ryan Rambacher said, to allow the private sector to redevelop the vacant retail site that he called an "eyesore." Bailey also said he preferred to let the expected redevelopment proposal run its course while slowing community center plans.
For a city starved for redevelopment since the economic downturn hit, the serious interest in the Home Depot property could signal things to come.
"Once you throw that pebble in the pond," council member Justin Olsen said, "where do the ripples go as far redevelopment?"