City Council, Boards, and Commissions Come Together for Block 52 Redevelopment Concept
There’s something special about Downtown Monticello. A place defined by a mix of riverfront, local businesses, people, and opportunities. As part of an ongoing commitment to downtown revitalization, the City of Monticello recently held a special meeting about a potential project that seeks to capture all these downtown elements.
On January 10, members of the City Council, Planning Commission, Economic Development Authority (EDA), and Parks, Arts, and Recreation Commission (PARC) came together with area business owners and city staff to view a concept plan for a proposed multi-use development. The concept was presented by Deephaven Development, LLC, Buchholz Construction, and RHET Architecture. Along with an initial glimpse of the concept, the meeting was an opportunity to provide feedback to the developers as they refine their plans.
What is Block 52?
A reference to the legal description of the land, Block 52 is the city block at the northwest corner of the Broadway and Pine Street (TH25) intersection. It’s located in the heart of downtown and one of the most visible spots in the city, with over 37,000 vehicles traveling through the intersection each day.
With these advantages, the block was identified in the City’s Downtown Plan as an opportunity for revitalization. The vision was for a signature development project, bringing additional energy and vitality to the area.
Why did the EDA buy property on the block?
Redevelopment is consistently more complex and expensive than developing vacant land. Cities can encourage redevelopment by helping assemble various properties into a single land tract. This allows developers to efficiently work with a single property owner and take advantage of local financing tools.
To help redevelop Block 52 as a value to the city, the EDA purchased land from willing sellers in the area. Some property owners have opted to remain on the block, adding their energy to the downtown. The EDA was ultimately successful in bringing together what was needed for a feasible project, about 83% of the block.
Is the City working with a private developer?
Yes! Both Block 52 redevelopment and broader Downtown revitalization is anchored by a commitment to public-private partnerships. As the EDA neared completion of property acquisition, they began searching for a developer interested in bringing a project to life. In 2021 the EDA approved a Preliminary Development Agreement (PDA) with Deephaven Development, LLC. The PDA allows both the City and the developer to move through initial project development stages before a more binding development agreement is established.
At the January 10 meeting, the developer team unveiled their initial concept for a mixed-use development incorporating both residential and commercial spaces. The proposed concept is a five story, L-shaped building along Broadway and Pine streets. The structure steps down to coordinate with the existing historical buildings downtown. While presenting at the meeting, Architect Rhet Fiskness of RHET Architecture highlighted efforts to complement Monticello’s historical roots with building materials that coordinate with existing downtown structures: a combination of red brick, blond brick, and metal accents.
According to Mark Buchholz of Buchholz Construction, the concept has apartments on levels two through four. On the first floor, the concept shows office space on Broadway, retail stores on Pine Street, a restaurant with a patio overlooking West Bridge Park as well as public plaza on the corner of Broadway and Pine Street. Their concept includes underground parking spaces as well as surface parking spaces.
“We want to create something with vibrancy that will be a place where you want to go and hang out,” said Buchholz.
City Feedback for the Concept
As those in attendance reviewed the concept photos and presentation detail, many provided positive feedback to the developers.
Council members Jim Davidson and Charlotte Gabler appreciated the aesthetic and building materials incorporated in the design. Mayor Lloyd Hilgart agreed, giving the developers an “A plus” on their project. Council member Sam Murdoff also liked what he saw, but indicated he was interested in seeing even more. “I’m willing to help you make the project bigger,” said Murdoff.
Architect Rhet Fiskness joked he would love the opportunity to go bigger but noted this is just the first step of many. “Cities are designed by architecture,” said Fiskness. “The goal of the Block 52 project is to help define downtown Monticello while respecting the neighboring buildings that exist,” he added. Future development could then incorporate this definition into their plans.
Members of the EDA, Planning Commission, and PARC also noted their positive impression of the project, particularly how the proposed concept clearly reflected the intention and vision of the redevelopment effort.
Building Momentum for a Long-Term Project
After many years of planning for a signature project, there is a lot of anticipation for visible progress. City staff noted the project is still in the early stages, but they’re happy with the feedback from the meeting and the benefits a project like this would bring to the City of Monticello.
City Administrator Rachel Leonard emphasized, “This is the kind of project that takes several years to accomplish. We’re moving forward, which is exciting, but there’s a lot more to do before people will be able to eat at an outdoor patio overlooking West Bridge Park and the river.”
Until then, the City of Monticello will continue to support a vibrant downtown with a commitment to this project and the entire downtown.