Eyesore to finally face demolition

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle The front of the old gas station along Rum River Drive North in Princeton has a decadent air with its exterior of graffiti, faded letters from its business past, and platoon of trees partially concealing its sides.

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle
The front of the old gas station along Rum River Drive North in Princeton has a decadent air with its exterior of graffiti, faded letters from its business past, and platoon of trees partially concealing its sides.

After years of being an eyesore along Rum River Drive on the city of Princeton’s north end, the long-abandoned masonry building that was once a gas station is nearing its demise as part of a redevelopment plan.
Located at 903 Ninth Ave., the property consists of a 0.45-acre lot with a former gas station building. In a memo to the City Council for its May 22 meeting, city Community Development Director Carie Fuhrman described the building as “dilapidated, unfit for habitation and unsafe.” It is full of debris on the inside and graffiti marks the exterior, she said.
The structure was once gutted and slated for a remodeling, which never took place. Fuhrman added that the building has not been occupied since the early to mid-1980s and has not been maintained for many years.
Numerous trees have grown up against the sides of the building, some with 9-inch-diameter trunks. Faded letters along the top front of the building read “Gas Discount.” A stairway leads into a basement and the whole building is open to vagrancy.
The reason the building is now as close to demolition as it has ever been is that the city has finally completed the process in which the city, with the help of Mille Lacs County, can acquire the property for $1 through a tax forfeit process.
The state actually has the title to the tax-forfeit property, but the county is involved in administrating the disposition of such properties within its boundaries.
At the May 22 meeting, the council passed a resolution approving the acquisition of the property. The resolution specifically asks the state to deed the property to the city for $1 and for the Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners to pass a resolution to approve the requested acquisition. The resolution was placed on the County Board’s June 3 meeting agenda.
Princeton has long prepared for this moment, having used some of the remaining money in its Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant to formally investigate any environmental issues on the property. Phase II of the investigation revealed asbestos and lead paint, a potential on-site sewage disposal system and several volatile organic compounds in the soil samples.
However, the level of VOCs was not high enough to be reportable, Fuhrman noted.
The next step involves following the recommendations that came out of the environmental study: Seal the property’s well, abandon its septic system, do more investigation below the property’s concrete slab, make a construction contingency plan and have a technician monitor the soils during demolition of the building and during redevelopment. There is some remaining NSP grant money to carry out all this, according to Fuhrman.
She also noted that the state has funds for redevelopment of these types of properties.
The Princeton Economic Development Authority board supervised use of the NSP funds in the gas station project so far and also used NSP funds to purchase the vacant and dilapidated house to the south of the gas station property. Fuhrman said the EDA plans to use NSP money to demolish the house and the gas station building at the same time, clean up the two sites and prepare the sites for redevelopment.
Two potential options exist for redeveloping the two sites, Fuhrman said:  Donate the sites to Habitat for Humanity to construct a single-family home with yard, or redevelop the combined properties into a townhome or multifamily residential home site. Further investigation needs to still occur concerning the buildable area there, Fuhrman noted.
The EDA wants to clean up the property for the “good of the neighborhood and entire community,” Fuhrman said.

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