Excelsior again weighing whether to redevelop or relocate City Hall

31December 2021

The Excelsior City Council is again looking at redeveloping its City Hall — or potentially relocating it to a vacant church in the new year.

The council will go over seven proposed projects Monday for the City Hall site at 339 3rd St., many of which are mixed-use concepts with commercial and housing elements. Some of the proposals include space for City Hall.

Excelsior leaders have debated what to do about City Hall, a nondescript 1960s-era structure, for the last 13 years. Plans were close to being finalized in 2015 when the council considered renovating the building, but it never moved forward with the project.

“When you think of Excelsior, you think of it being beautiful and cute and quaint. And our City Hall has been anything but,” City Manager Kristi Luger said. “We’re just outgrowing the space and it just needs to be updated.”

Luger said the City Hall site, which she called a “prime piece of property,” should be on the tax rolls. Council Member Dale Kurschner said that while he preferred City Hall remain there, he hoped the city this time would make progress on the plans regardless.

“We all get the fact that this is a great opportunity and a great time to move forward on this,” he said. “We just have to figure out the best way.”

What Kurschner doesn’t want to see, he said, is “some state of inaction for six months to two years, or worse … other things come up and then nothing happens.”

The council plans to interview several potential development partners and narrow the list of proposals. In the event no suitable partner is selected, staffers will look at alternatives — including moving City Hall to another property, most likely the Christian Science Church site purchased by the city this summer for $1.2 million.

The church, at 106 Center St., has been recommended for historic preservation but has sat vacant for years. The city didn’t purchase it with City Hall in mind, Luger said, but to slow the development process and have a say in whatever might replace it.

“We think that it’s valuable, and it will continue to hold its value,” she said.

Kurschner said that if the church is torn down, he’d like to see affordable cottage- or bungalow-style starter homes erected there to add tax revenue and draw young residents who couldn’t otherwise afford to buy homes in Excelsior.

But residents near the empty church are “up in arms,” he said, about the possibility of City Hall moving in and the commotion it might create.

Luger said change is hard, whether City Hall moves into the church or housing replaces it.

“I think a lot of them just got used to having a quiet church there,” she said. “So when you go from a building that was pretty much not used at all, to something that’s going to get used, that’s a hard transition to make.”

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