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Northland Mall declared hazardous

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WORTHINGTON — The Worthington city council declared the Northland Mall a hazardous building during its regular meeting Monday night. 

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An official letter was sent to Mike Kohen, of Northland Mall Realty Management, LLC, on March 10, outlining the deteriorating conditions at the Oxford Street building. The letter stated numerous unsafe conditions at the mall, including issues with the roof, ceiling, ventilation and HVAC systems.

Kohen’s reply — an outline of the work being done — was not sufficient for the city council. Kohen responded to Brad Chapulis, director of community and economic development, on one of the last days he could. The mall was on the agenda during the previous council meeting, but it was tabled to allow city staff the time to do due diligence on the work Kohen outlined in his email.

“We asked you to table the order declaring the Northland Mall a hazardous building as outlined by state statute to allow for staff to do due diligence for the plan of action ownership has submitted,” Chapulis told the council. “After completing that due diligence, we have decided the plan of action isn’t sufficient enough to preclude us moving forward legally due to the reasons that there was no specific schedule of work to be done, scope of work or … executed contracts.”

Council member Mike Kuhle said the council should continue moving forward.

“I think we need to keep the pressure on,” he said. “We’ve lost a lot of value in that whole property and a lot of business over the years.”

Council member Diane Graber was concerned about the safety of the customers and employees at the mall.

“Frankly, that’s where I hear the most complaints is the issue of people going in there, people working in there — the whole safety situation,” she said.

The order will be sent to the mall ownership, and Kohen will have 60 days to complete the necessary work.

“He’ll have 60 days to do the work, and if he fails to do the work, we can file in court the order to have a court order to do the work itself,” Chapulis said.

Chapulis also added that the firm hired to inspect the former Kmart building will do so today.

“We’ll get a report a few weeks later,” he said. “We’ll file that with the courts and seek the approval to move forward on that one.”

In other business, the council approved an application to block streets for the Okabena Windsurfers during the Regatta. It was originally on the consent agenda, but pulled off for discussion.

The council also approved the Nobles Home Initiative guidelines. The council had previously approved the concept, but approved a draft of the guidelines Monday night. The program would allow for 100 percent tax abatement of the city’s share of real estate taxes for a period of five years.

“We have already received our first application for the program. We’re excited to keep it moving and see several more,” said City Administrator Craig Clark.

The council approved a couple of different funding options for a housing project through the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership.

The first is a pay-as-you-go tax increment financing district for the land acquisition and site improvements related to the project. The second is a $300,000 deferred loan. The money is from a revolving loan fund reserves with consent from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The Housing Partnership is proposing a 60-unit apartment building on Grand Avenue, and will use the city’s partnership to strengthen its application for low income housing tax credits through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

Before the meeting began, the council recognized Worthington High School senior Will Dudley, who was recently awarded the state AAA (Academics, Arts & Athletics) award from the Minnesota State High School League.

“We are very proud of you,” Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh said. “It’s quite an honor for our community and we applaud your efforts.”

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.

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