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Willie's Hidden Harbor surfaces again

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Two area businessmen presented a preliminary plan of action to revive the former Willie's Hidden Harbor to the St. Paul Park Economic Development Authority Monday night.

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Tim Kennedy, vice president of River Fun in St. Paul, and Paul Narpaul, president of Innovative Chemical Corp. in Cottage Grove, will sign the purchase papers Dec. 21 and take possession of the marina on March 7, Kennedy told Authority members.

"We're dropping the 'Willie's' and just calling it Hidden Harbor," Kennedy said.

The marina, most recently known as Harbor Village, has been closed for the past two years, he said.

Kennedy said last night's presentation was the first step in applying to the city's EDA for financial support.

"About all we can do right now is take it under advisement," John Hunziker, St. Paul Park mayor and president of the recently formed EDA, told Kennedy. "Possibly down the road we can take a look at it, but right now we can't promise anything."

EDA member Steve Hunstad said, "We need to know a lot more. We don't have a lot of assets to work with but want to work with you. There is an interest in developing that area of town."

He suggested Kennedy and Narpaul meet with EDA executive director and city administrator Kevin Walsh.

Narpaul, who kept his boat at the marina for 13 years when it was known as Willie's, said their first goal is to get the restaurant and marina up and operating and looking at potential.

"We will start work in early March and hope to have the restaurant open by May," Narpaul said. "That's why we're here. Financing is very challenging and we're exploring all possibilities."

In an initial letter to the Authority, Kennedy said in order to acquire a permit to re-open the restaurant, "we will have to install new sewer and water service."

That cost to connect to city service -- uphill and many blocks away -- has been estimated at approximately $250,000, he said, and he is suggesting the EDA participate in the construction by providing a $150,000 grant.

"Even the $250,000 figure is not firm," he continued. "We won't be able to do soil borings until March 7. There is an existing septic system, which the state might allow us to use for a brief period, but we would have to assure them that we plan to put in a new system."

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