by Joni Astrup
Three people have appeared before the Elk River City Council to express interest in the Elk River Activity Center.
The building is a former library located at 413 Proctor Ave. that provides space for programs and activities for seniors. But that use will be moving to a new multipurpose recreational facility under construction at 1000 School St., and City Council members have expressed interest in putting the activity center building on the market.
At a City Council work session July 6, a church, an arts entity and a group of people interested in youth all made presentations on what they envision for the building.
Craig Prange, representing Glory of Christ Fellowship, told the council that they think the activity center building “might be a really, really good fit for our congregation.”
Glory of Christ Fellowship was founded in 2006 as a daughter church of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis. It had been meeting at the Handke Family Center in Elk River since 2007 until COVID-19; it is currently meeting at Living Waters Church in Elk River.
The church has offices in downtown Elk River and a congregation of about 150 people.
Prange said they have been actively looking for property for about five years. The church has $200,000 in a facilities fund and borrowing ability through a bank.
He indicated that the church would prefer buying rather than leasing space.
Tina Meeker presented a vision for the building to become the Elk River Center for History & the Arts.
She described herself as business owner, corporate executive and a friend of the arts — specifically NorthStar Arts, which has been in Elk River since 1996.
Meeker shared three concepts for the building. One is the Elk River History Archives and Center. It could offer hosted walking tours of Elk River historical sites, have historical artifacts such as photos, books and displays and be a place for community events, galas and so forth.
The second concept is theater and music programming. The building could provide audition and rehearsal space; small performances, dinner theaters and recitals; summer theater and music camps for kids and senior theater and music performer groups.
The third concept envisioned is space for local artisan displays and events, picking up where the former Elk River Arts Alliance left off.
“This is just a suggestion, an idea, a concept. It is certainly flexible,” Meeker said.
She said the space could be leased by local artists and performing arts groups.
Mayor John Dietz clarified that under the scenario presented, the city would not be the building owner.
Meeker said that was her understanding.
Next, Barry Hohlen laid out a vision for the building as a place to serve youth.
Hohlen, of Great River Young Life, is working with a group of people and organizations including Ken Beaudry, Gary Santwire, Shine a Ligh7 Foundation (Paul Martin), KC Foster, Thumbs Up (Katie Shatusky), The Wave (Maria Guidarelli) and Great River Young Life (Hohlen and Lane Crose).
Hohlen said they are a group of adults interested in the well-being of youth, coming together to provide resources and spaces for groups that promote physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.
“We’re a group of people that’s really woven together around this idea (that) kids in Elk River need a space, kids in Elk River need access to adults that care about them and kids in Elk River can benefit from that space,” he said.
He said the former library could be used daily after school and for evening events such as Young Life High School Outreach, Young Life Capernaum and Fifth Quarter events as well as small groups and mentoring, banquets and arts groups and therapy.
After Hohlen completed his presentation, Todd Roskaft spoke.
He told the City Council that the Elk River Activity Center building is a great asset to the community. He thinks the city should keep the building and let nonprofits use it or lease it. He mentioned organizations like the Rotary, the Lions and the Masons as groups that perhaps could benefit from the building.
“The council kind of reached a decision (that) we’d like to sell it,” Mayor Dietz told him. “...We don’t want to maintain it.”
The building and property are thought to be worth $300,000 to $450,000. That number was arrived at by determining that there could be six houses built on the property, with each lot worth $50,000 to $75,000.
Dietz said the building needs a lot of work, including a new roof, HVAC system and bathrooms. The city would sell it “as is.”
The city is looking at listing the property and taking bids on it. The next step will be for the city to engage a broker.