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Design work for new city liquor store OK'd

Design and concepts for a new municipal liquor store will be prepared, following Perham City Council action May 12. Councilmembers are not pointing to a specific location for the facility, but several downtown businessmen at the meeting expressed...

Design and concepts for a new municipal liquor store will be prepared, following Perham City Council action May 12.

Councilmembers are not pointing to a specific location for the facility, but several downtown businessmen at the meeting expressed long-held concerns that the store would move to the highway--creating another downtown vacancy.

"Perham has been the envy of other towns because of its strong downtown," said Steve Richter, owner of Richter's Clothing. "But we have a lot of cracks opening up on Main Street. We're not quite as boastful as we used to be."

The loss of the NAPA auto parts store, the closing of the Kelly's night club, the vacant Lakeland Vet and Aune Auto buildings, and numerous empty lots are evidence of a downtown business district at risk, contended Richter.

Lots at two highway locations have been discussed by city officials, including the Happel Addition where Bremer is building and across the road in the Paulubicki Addition, near the Super 8 Motel. Preliminary estimates for land and building at those sites was $2.1 million.

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Downtown locations have also been discussed, such as the vacant NAPA building. But downtown locations are hampered by inadequate parking.

Present square footage at the city hall store is less than 4,000 square feet. Storage is inefficient, located in the basement.

Based on a tour of other liquor stores in the region, about 10,000 square feet might be ideal for the city store.

Mayor Vince Pankonin said no specific location has been targeted. At this stage, said Pankonin, the council is interested in interior store layout and design--regardless of where it may be located.

"We wanted to find out what other towns have done--and what they would do different," said Councilman Kevin Keil. "We want to find out what is most beneficial to us all."

"There will be multiple options, once we determine the square footage needed," said City Manager Bob Louiseau, stressing that preliminary design work is necessary before making a major decision. "It's not good policy to spend public money unless we gather information and think long range."

Richter noted that the building that housed Kreations would be 12,000 square feet, and would keep the store downtown.

Richter urged the council to table the design work for more input. Further, he asked the council to bring in two more members to establish more "political balance" on the informal liquor store committee. Dave Schornack, with ACS, and Dave Still, Service Foods, had volunteered at one point to serve on the committee, but have not yet been brought in to the discussions.

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"The town of Perham has been here for 134 years," said Richter, adding that other communities have traded highway commercial development for decaying downtowns. "I look at our neighbors and the mistakes they made."

The council voted unanimously to contract with Baker, Hogan and Houx, architecture and planning firm, to prepare preliminary retail design concepts. The fee is $4,200.

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