Janie Hanson, the founder and CEO of a company called Connect the Grey, was at the open house to explain what she and her company are planning for the now city-owned buildings.
Hanson, a Blue Earth native and graduate of BEA High School, explained the plan which included a total makeover of the three structures and turning them into a series of businesses. They included a possible art gallery, art studio, wine/coffee bar and a bakery/cafe.
Hanson and her company have had an exclusive 90-day option on the Three Sisters buildings from the City of Blue Earth and its Economic Development Authority, which has taken over ownership of all the buildings and has made some improvements to them.
That 90-day exclusive option has now expired. However, during that period Hanson and her team have investigated the structures, developed their plans and have been in discussion with the city about possible financing.
There have been several closed sessions at both City Council and EDA meetings to discuss the proposals from Connect the Grey, but no agreement has yet been reached, according to city administrator Tim Ibisch.
At last Thursday's open house, Hanson had all the people in attendance write down what they would like to see go into the three buildings, and then rate them by importance. After all the tabulation things such as art gallery, cafe, bakery and technology came out on top.
"We are looking for community support and community involvement," Hanson said. "We are looking for people interested in doing some of these things, and working with us."
Financing the project is a big part of it, she adds.
"This is a big capital improvement project for the city," Hanson explains. "We are looking at numbers with a lot of zeros behind it. So we are trying to see if there is community support, and interest in this. And it looks like there is from the turnout tonight."
City administrator Tim Ibisch said after the meeting that the city has been in negotiations with Connect the Grey. So far, he says, the city is willing to invest $350,000 in the form of a grant and a loan. But, the Connect the Grey group is looking for a more substantial investment from the city, to the tune of $750,000, Ibisch added.
"The city wants to continue to work with Connect the Grey as long as we can," Ibisch said. "The City Council will be discussing this in depth again on Monday (May 7) at their regular meeting, and we have invited Janie and her group to be there."