ST. CLOUD - St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis has big plans for three under utilized areas of town. Kleis announced three separate economic projects Tuesday, all of which he wants completed in the next two years.

The first is a plan to redevelop the area along Highway 23 and Cooper Avenue. Kleis' plan includes raising Xcel Energy's franchise fee that it pays to the city by one percent, going from three percent to four percent. The additional revenue would pay for the estimated $3.5 million it will cost to remove an electric substation on that site.

There are some buildings that are dilapidated and clearly an eyesore along Highway 23 and Cooper.  The main barrier is the substation, we'll remove that with the franchise fee.  TIF would remove the buildings. There's also a grant we can receive for contamination clean-up.

Kleis says one developer owns the rest of that property and has a vision for building a retail and mixed-use complex on that site along Division Street.

The city council will need to approve the franchise fee increase, and the creation of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. The Public Utilities Commission will also have to approve the fee increase. Kleis says Xcel Energy has already given their support. The fee increase would be for a period of seven years.

East St. Germain project, site of future Kwik Trip, photo by's Jim Maurice
East St. Germain project, site of future Kwik Trip, photo by's Jim Maurice

Also, A stalled out project in east St. Cloud may get a jump start under a plan announced Tuesday by Kleis. He also wants to use the franchise fee increase for this project. The additional revenue would help with the removal of utility lines along East St. Germain Street.

We've got Kwik Trip that is looking at moving in that area, but they're on hold.  We want to kind of push those projects along. So, we can do something with the removal of the utilities.

Right now the former Holiday gas station store has been removed, along with three other buildings. Kwik Trip is negotiating with Bob Abel to buy up more land.

Wooded land at Heritage Park, photo by's Jim Maurice
Wooded land at Heritage Park, photo by's Jim Maurice

St. Cloud is also looking at selling some of its prime park land. The sale of 18 acres of Heritage Park. It's mostly the wooded area at the corner of 2nd Street and 33rd Avenue South.

Kleis says a major retailer has been interested in the land for a few years now. (Kleis would not say who that major retailer is.)

We're looking at giving up in sale about 18 acres while gaining 71 acres. So a four to one gain in additional parkland. Plus, we'd put additional dollars into existing parks,

Kleis says they'd use the money from the sale of the land to buy the 71 acres in southeast St. Cloud, including the Talahi Woods - adjacent to Riverside Park - which is owned by St. Cloud State University, and some land next to Friedrich Park.

He says, once it's developed, the Heritage Park land would generate an additional $400,000 in property taxes and $200,000 in half-cent sales tax. The Stearns History Museum would not be impacted. And, the skate park would stay in that area as well.

The land would need to be rezoned from residential to commercial.