Looking to buy a city hall? You’re in luck.

For roughly the price of a couple of first-class stamps, Forest Lake’s old city hall could be yours — as long as you tear it down and build market-rate housing, some commercial space or a mix of the two.

The 76-year-old building and the 2.6-acre site it sits on in the north end of the downtown business district are now available for just $1 — as long as a developer meets the conditions of an incentive package City Council members approved earlier this month.

Other enticements, such as tax-increment financing, could come into play if the buyer adds other features, such as a parking ramp with public access. The incentives will be available for six months, after which the city will re-evaluate the offer.

City leaders see redevelopment of the property as key to ongoing efforts to stimulate downtown growth and add momentum to a modest recent rebound.

“I want to get that downtown area growing and get that [property] back on the tax rolls if possible,” Mayor Stev Stegner told council members in announcing his support for the incentive package.

The city is willing to offer the low price because it prefers to have the site redeveloped rather than have the building reused. If it’s reused, the asking price for the property jumps to $750,000.

Forest Lake initially received inquiries from parties interested in reusing the building at no cost, an option the city chose not to pursue, City Administrator Aaron Parrish said. The $1 sale incentive, however, has drawn interest from developers contemplating redevelopment.

‘Jobs, jobs and more jobs’

While debating the incentive package, Council member Mike Freer said he wanted the city’s Economic Development Authority to come up with additional ways to market the property.

“To me it needs to be tied to jobs, jobs and more jobs,” Freer said of prospective redevelopment.

The old city hall, built in 1939, became expendable in December, when city officials, police and firefighters moved into Forest Lake City Center, a spacious, high-tech headquarters. “We blended three locations that we were previously in into one,” Parrish said. “That’s provided some synergy with our ability to collaborate with each other.”

The new building, as hoped, also has been host to a number of community meetings and events in rooms designed for such gatherings.

“We have the ability to host a number of community functions that we haven’t had in the past, and that’s been exciting,” Parrish said. “We have some great meeting spaces and there are many times when they’re all being utilized.”

Earlier this month, Forest Lake-based Gaughan Companies broke ground for a 19,000-square-foot medical office and retail development that it will build and own on a City Center outlot, Parrish said.

The city is seeking to sell a second, smaller outlot that could accommodate a 3,000-square-foot building for retail, commercial, office or medical office use.


Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.