If there is one sector of the economy of Bemidji that seems to be holding its own its construction. Several projects this year have been the new Event Center, the Tru Star Credit Union being built on Paul Bunyan Drive, and the expansion of the Neilson Place facility by North Country Regional Hospital. The Vista North housing project has continued this year all the way to Anne Street. The Sattgast Hall renovation at Bemidji State was completed this summer. The Amigo Theater expansion is completed and they opened last week. The City Park makeover is well on its way with earthmovers dotting its landscape. Several new smaller projects just started include a new Subway in Pamida’s parking lot downtown (as blogged here earlier and where will the Farmer’s Market go?), a new Roger’s Cellular retail facility behind Ground Round, the remodeling of the old First National Bank branch by Riverwood Bank, and the new Karvakko Engineering building near the university. Throw in the roadwork on Irving and the overpass rework done on Highway 2 west of Bemidji and its been a fairly significant construction year.
Next year several projects have already been announced including the remodeling of the airport terminal and the building of Ours to Serve new housing facility. This week the rumor mill was working overtime with several “sources” commenting on other new projects.
The biggest possible new construction project is the opening of a CVS Pharmacy in Bemidji on the corner of Paul Buynan Drive and Bemidji Avenue. Supposedly the Paul Bunyan Bowl site has been purchased by CVS, along with the newly remodeled building where Lakes Sport recently was located. The sources claim that Paul Bunyan Bowl has purchased the old CVS Fitness facility near the airport and will relocate to that site. (Confirms what the airport manager said last week during a news conference in regards to airport zoning and a bowling alley lighting request). Currently with 16 lanes, the bowling alley according to the story could expand to 26 lanes.
CVS Pharmacy just opened their 7000 th location this past year which just happened to be in Little Canada, MN. They started in Massachusetts in 1963 and quickly spread throughout the Northeast. By 1988 they had 750 stores and had their 25th anniversary. In the 1990’s the chain actively pursued and took over many regional drug store operations and along with its rival WALGREENS became a national competitor. In 2005 CVS ended the year being the largest drug store chain in America. They have only recently arrived on the scene in Minnesota, building many of their stores within the last 5 years in the Twin Cities. Interestingly enough, they go head to head with Walgreens and many of their locations are directly across the street from an existing Walgreens facility. In Bemidji, there will be FOUR pharmacies within 2 city blocks of one another….CVS, Med Save, Thrifty White, and Walgreens. With this addition, I think we have plenty of both Drug stores and banks!
As a side note…sources also say the very successful Mi Rancho Mexican Restaurant which opened a few months ago on Anne Street near the hospital, has purchased the old Bluewater Bait building on the South end of town and will be opening it as a second restaurant. This building, located near the Southside Luekens grocery store on Hwy 71 leading out of town, is only blocks from the new Event Center, and I am sure they are going to use that for an advantage. This could be the stimulus to get other entertainment and restaurant operations to relocated near the center. Rumors continue to circulate that the chain Zorbaz (7 locations based in Detroit Lakes, all with waterfront locations) will be building along the lakefront in the Southshore development. Some other names floating around town possibly considering Bemidji as a location includes IHOP and Buffalo Wild Wings. With Hwy 71 from near Luekens to past Hwy 2 being redone next year by the Dept. of Transportation, watch this area from the Event Center to Highway 2 as being the next growth spurt for Bemidji. It’s only a matter of time that the land of the failed Outlet Mall project will be snatched up for development.