Northfield Municipal Liquor Store back on the development table?

In the Project News section of the October 19, 2009 Construction Bulletin newsletter, the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store is listed. I’ve not seen or heard anything about from City of Northfield councilors or staff. Anyone know what’s up?

Page 25, October 19, 2009 Construction Bulletin newsletterProposed Pending Owner Review

Estimated value: Not available.

Owner: Northfield City Hall

Attn: Joel Walinski

Consult: McCombs Group LTD, Mpls

Size: 1 bldg

Descr: Individual Store; Store within 0.22 Mile of State Trunk Highway 3 or State Trunk Highway 19, New or Existing Building

Notes: 1. Proposals For Land Sale, Build-To-Suit Sale, Build-to-Lease, Existing Building  Sale & Existing Building Lease Are Under Review


  1. Jane McWilliams said:

    Griff – could you provide a link to the Construction Bulletin? I checked the city web site and couldn’t find it. What is it, exactly?

    And I’m having trouble reading the screen shot! (It ain’t easy gettin’ old!)

    October 23, 2009
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, I don’t have a link for you. It’s not on the City’s website. Someone gave me that piece of paper and I took a photo of it.

    I’ve enlarged the photo but you have to click once for the first enlargement, then click the green arrow for the second enlargement.

    But I manually typed nearly all of the text of the item and put it in the blog post so you won’t get much more than that, just addresses, etc.

    October 23, 2009
  3. victor summa said:

    Very intriguing. Where when and how? Well it seems not with council direction. At least no public statement I’m aware of.

    Someone suggested that Joel Walinski, when queried on this issue (following Griff’s blog scooping the NORTHFIELD NEWS) that he (JW) said, he knows nothing of this. Even, I was told, he suggested it might be an old listing. My memory serves me well and I recount that the last consultant involved was John Donnelley who was brought on to narrow the sites in consideration and then be involved in the Staff’s recommendation. The EDA (in part) was included in that review process, which was not too conclusive. Matrix items used to evaluate, in many cases didn’t fit or were very convoluted. In any event, after that costly fiasco, staff taking the partially filled in review matrices mulled over their options, and recommended “none of the above” .. and the Liquor store site was search was abandoned. Subsequently, as we were told, OSHA was hot on Northfield’s case to get the problems they had cited addressed, or close the site … and the problems were addressed, and at a fraction of the costs that staff bandied about early on when they were trying to convince council and community of the dire straights we were facing with a dysfuctional building. We survived and I believe the sale numbers are higher now than they’ve ever been .. showing we must be getting the majority of the local market in spite of the small antiquated site.

    Spin! Or, Spin?

    Now comes this latest hard copy revelation; (Griff’s post) and if you could read the print, you’d see that the professional consultant now listed is the McComb Group. McComb was involved in some of this liquor store hysteria and analysis early on .. but not recently, so this listing smacks of being current, and one must ask, how does it happen then the City Administrator doesn’t know about it. Joel monitors these remarks, so he may answer the questions. On the other hand, he recently told me as I stood at the open mic asking for an answer to a simpler question, “the author of the text for a recent ordinance change” … ” he wasn’t authorized by the Council to answer”.

    My, what fantastic webs we spin. I trust you get the drift of mine. That is, we’re not included in the plans or even privy to the discussions. Almost certainly an Open Meeting violation, or … once again staff steps over the boundaries. This begs another question. Is there any council person hand-in-hand with staff in pursuing this personal agenda?

    October 23, 2009
  4. Jane McWilliams said:

    Thanks, Griff.

    Do you think this may be a obsolete listing? If not, Victor’s concerns are understandable.

    October 23, 2009
  5. Jane McWilliams said:

    In response to my email, Joel Walinski replied that he “was as surprised as anyone else” by that notice and that the liquor store is not for sale.

    October 23, 2009
  6. victor summa said:

    Jane: In Griff’s orig post he dates the Project News listing as October 19th, 2009.
    Indeed, were we able to read his screen shot, you’d notice in the lower right hand corner, page 25, that date: 10.19, 2009.
    That, plus the McComb reference, make it clear to my satisfaction that it is current.

    October 23, 2009
  7. kiffi summa said:

    Jane : If Joel is “surprised” by this notice, I would think he would want to know who is using his name for the contact at City Hall, as the notice clearly states.

    Answering that “the liquor store is not for sale” is factual as notice states “existing building sale, and existing building lease are under review”

    A further question might be: Under whose review? Have you heard this issue come up again in your observance of the council?

    Maybe some confirmation might be gotten by calling the consulting group : McCombs Group LTD, 612.339.7000

    October 23, 2009
  8. Jane McWilliams said:

    Joel said he thought the notice was a mistake and he was going to contact the Bulletin to find out how the posting occurred. He suggested it might be an “early April Fool’s joke.”

    As far as I can recall, nothing has been discussed about disposing of the liquor store for months. That’s why I was surprised by Griff’s post, and decided to email the city administrator.

    October 23, 2009
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks much for doing that, Jane.

    October 24, 2009
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m told that the Construction Bulletin notice on the Muni is substantially different than the one that ran several months ago. I’ll try to get a copy of it to verify this.

    I’m also told that Construction Bulletin doesn’t run notices for free, that someone had to place the order and pay for it to appear.

    October 26, 2009
  11. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: now this is a good bit of ‘investigative journalism’ for you to do; fairly simple and concise.
    Just remember, two primary sources for each stated fact, if at all possible…and definitely statements from both sides.

    Considering that the liquor store was the center of the ‘maelstrom’ one might wonder why the NFNews is ignoring this story … or maybe they have ‘investigated’ and found only a tempest in a teapot. Maybe the “surprised” response at City Hall reassured them.

    October 26, 2009
  12. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, when an investigative journalist can’t be gotten, my preference is to have citizens from all sides of an issue to come forward with sources… and then try to make sense of it all via conversation.

    October 26, 2009
  13. kiffi summa said:

    Griff: This one just needs facts; what more is there to speculate about?

    Is it current?
    When was it put in the newsletter?
    Who submitted it to the newsletter?

    The everyone can say “wassup”?

    October 27, 2009
  14. kiffi summa said:

    I was talking to a  NF ‘developer’ the other morning who said this ad for a liquor store site is definitely NOT the one which had previously appeared in the construction newsletter, and he had various details of the ad that backed up that assertion.

    What is the point, Griff, of bringing this very contentious issue to the public’s attention if you are not going to follow up on it? You said above that you expect others to  “make sense of it all through conversation”.   That stirs nothing but a lot of opinion and gossip, unless the facts are established.

    It is clear from many opinions expressed before and during the Chamber forum that some people are apprehensive of the city’s sometimes “retaliatory” behavior; and others are just too wary to speak out.

    The newspaper is unlikely to investigate what could be a very intriguing story  (given the foci of the past several years); they seem to be far too much in ‘lockstep’ with City Hall, to do something that might be perceived to be adversarial. After all, they haven’t picked up on this as a story at all, have they?

    So, once again, this will remain a disturbing, unresolved piece of  data which actually provides little information in the end…. and as a matter of fact, should help to draw a distinguishing line between ‘citizen journalism’ and ‘citizen opinion’.


    October 31, 2009
  15. David Ludescher said:

    A new liquor store on Highway 3 could probably make enough additional profits to pay for the yearly costs of the street lights, or provide sufficient income for the debt financing on some of the new projects being proposed.

    October 31, 2009
  16. Arlen Malecha said:

    Before a new liquor store could help pay the debt financing for other projects it would have to pay off its own debt and that could take 20 years+.

    November 11, 2009
  17. David Ludescher said:

    Arlen:  I hadn’t heard that.  Where are you getting your data?

    November 12, 2009
  18. john george said:

    Geez, Arlen! Does that mean we could be in the dark for the next 20 years?

    November 12, 2009
  19. Arlen Malecha said:

    Well I am sure the City wouldn’t be paying cash for a new building, so therefore a loan will have to be acquired. I am guessing that loan will be, at a minimum, 20 years. So until that building is paid for the revenues from the liquor store won’t really be able to support many, if any, other projects.

    November 13, 2009
  20. David Ludescher said:

    Arlen:  The projections that I heard or read was that the additional revenues generated would more than pay for the additional debt load.  So, a new liquor store would be an additional money maker from the get-go.  However, the figures for a downtown liquor store are substantially different.  Building costs would be higher and the sales would be lower.

    Remember, the last request for proposals only looked at downtown stores.  The council wouldn’t even consider Gleason’s offer of free land (worth almost $1 million). 

    November 13, 2009
  21. kiffi summa said:

    David: I think you need to be a tad more skeptical about those projections; consider the source.

    I also believe the Gleason land offer only came this summer; I was covering the council (observer reports) for the LWV and did not hear any discussion that would indicate the council even considered that land in relation to the liquor store issue. It only came into the mix on the safety center and library issues.

    November 13, 2009
  22. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi:  When RFP’s on the liquor store were requested, Gleason put in a proposal that included the free land.  It was rejected because the land wasn’t in the downtown.  I never understood why the City didn’t give this proposal a serious look.

    When the liquor store consultant was asking me about our law office downtown, I remember asking the consultant about looking at an out-of-downtown site.  My paraphrasing of his remarks is that the City didn’t hire him to find the best location, the City hired him to find the best downtown location.

    Nevertheless, preliminary analysis suggests that the City could have a liquor store of twice the size for the same (or even less) operational costs.  It is an option worth considering, especially if the City continues to move forward on $20 million dollars of new capital projects.



    November 14, 2009

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