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Worthington plans for additional growth along U.S. 59

Work on land along U.S. 59, across from where Worthington's new events center is being constructed, continues Thursday afternoon.

WORTHINGTON -- The city of Worthington wanted to look toward the future.

To do that, there needed to be space for business growth and expansion.

At the Sept. 10 city council meeting, an agreement was reached with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to develop land north of Worthington.

"It's really intended to open up the possibility for commercial and industrial options in the park on the west side of 59 north," Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark said.

"Really, our goal there is obviously create jobs and economic development that comes with that. But we've had a lot of success with the Ryan's Road project, and we'd love nothing more than a mirror image or additional business on the north side of I-90 that we've seen on the south and the benefits that's provided."

Work has begun on the space just to the west of U.S. 59, across from where the new events center is being constructed.

"What's so important about this grant funding is when we're talking about build out within the industrial park, some of those costs would be assessable and tangible benefit to the property owners," Clark said. "It's getting the infrastructure up along 59 underneath 90 and punched in on the point of entrance to the park."

The total cost of the project is $4.7 million, with $1.4 coming from city funds. The rest is from MnDOT and DEED.

"All the cost associated with this essentially wouldn't be recoverable and would be city expenses," Clark said. "It makes it kind of a hard hurdle to get over as a municipality, and having the significant help from the state to get this off the ground and open up a more legitimate possibility of this expanding helps lower that hurdle."

The entrance into what could become the 90-acre industrial park will be connected to the road on the north side of the current Bioscience Park north of Worthington -- Bioscience Drive.

"There will be a full interchange with acceleration and deceleration lanes on 59," Clark said. "That will be the main entrance into the west commercial and industrial park. It really gets everything to the doorstep of the park and set the stage for future development."

Crews are currently working on the infrastructure for the park, which includes a water main, sanitary sewer and storage pond construction. However, crews haven't begun work on the highway.

"They are trying to do everything they can without touching 59 yet this year," Clark said. "Because of the nice weather we've had, they are probably reaching about the limits of what they can do yet this year. It puts them in good shape for next year."

Clark is anticipating a detour of U.S. 59 next summer for two months. The project is expected to be completed in fall 2013.

"While they are moving a lot of dirt and using a lot of heavy equipment, you won't see a new building out there or anything like that," Clark said. "It's about the infrastructure and the lanes on 59, and having the potential to punch into the park is what we're really setting the stage for. We're taking incremental steps to get there. Having this accomplished is such a big asset to any potential development in the park."

There will be commercial lots available with a potential for a frontage road within the park, but another advantage is adding a retention pond to help with the County Ditch 12 improvements.

"Having this retention pond helps alleviate some of the pressure on our system," Clark said. "It's kind of a domino effect -- when you get water, making it go away quickly when you have capacity to handle some of that volume. That relieves the pressure on the stream, and the water cannot back up as much into the downtown."

When it's completed, the biggest impact from the project will be the ability to have space to encourage new business expansion.

"I think the big picture we're looking at is the community, and what's important for a community to grow our tax base and grow our economic development is really having a canvas for that to happen," Clark said. "When you're looking around for commercial land available, having a large site available is kind of tough to come by.

"This really will present an opportunity to make sure we don't get in a situation where we say, 'We'd love to have X, but we really can't shoehorn it in.' We'll have as wide of possibilities open for development as might come forward."

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