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  • Mesabi Tribune

    Copper Nickel set to operate Virginia Golf Course restaurant


    29 days ago

    VIRGINIA—The Virginia Golf Course will soon have a new clubhouse restaurant operator.

    At their last meeting, the Virginia City Council unanimously approved lease negotiations with Tim Kruchowski, the owner of the Copper Nickel in Aurora, to run the restaurant and bar.

    “With the history of Mr. Kruchowski in restaurant ownership and liquor sales, the committee (reviewing and interviewing the three applicants) felt comfortable recommending him as the selected firm,’’ City Administrator Britt See-Benes noted.

    City councilors Steven B. Johnson and Gary Friedlieb were selected, along with city staff, to negotiate the lease with Kruchowski.

    The Copper Nickel Public House at the Virginia Golf Course will hopefully be open by early May, according to a City of Virginia Facebook post. The Copper Nickel is now seeking applicants for numerous positions.

    The clubhouse’s restaurant and bar have been closed since December.

    Uptown Virginia project

    After a public hearing, the council also approved a resolution formed a Tax Increment Financing District for the Uptown Virginia (former Thunderbird Mall) area.

    RockStep Capital, Uptown Virginia’s owner, began the process of scaling back the mall in 2016 with a strategy to reduce its footprint and allow for more storefronts facing Highway 53.

    Rockstep’s recent accomplishments include Hobby Lobby, Tractor Supply, Harbor Freight and Aldi, according to Jody Vest, director of mall management.

    “We continue to explore all options for the redevelopment of the remaining small shop space. Currently, we are working with a prospect to take a portion of the interior small shop space,’’ she wrote in an email to the Mesabi Tribune.

    “RockStep is not currently working with a big box retailer for the Uptown Virginia property,’’ she added.

    TIF District information at a Rock Ridge School Board meeting says the project involves the mall’s redevelopment “through a full demolition of the interior stores and common area and reconfiguring to build-out space for the potential of up to four new retail operators to one junior anchor store, with the potential for three smaller retail operators.’’

    Regarding the above, Vest stated current plans will primarily involve vacant small shop space and common area corridor.

    Redevelopment of Uptown Virginia is an evolving plan that has been adjusted as various stores joined the property. We are currently planning to redesign a portion of our small shop space to accommodate the needs of our current prospect. Traditional interior mall space remains part of our current plan,’’ Vest said.

    RockStep’s plan is to commence the project by year end.

    She added a junior anchor store is a mid-size store that plays a significant role in attracting foot traffic to a shopping center.

    What other types of retailers might locate at Uptown Virginia?

    “We have a variety of retailer interest in our property. We anticipate additional interest when this project advances,’’ Vest added.

    What will Uptown Virginia look like when the project is completed?

    “Our goal is to have a 100% occupied shopping center with a mix of users including retail, service, entertainment, and other non-traditional users.’’

    TIF uses the additional property taxes paid as a result of development in the district to pay for part of the development costs.{

    County Commissioner Keith Nelson said TIFs are a convoluted process in government that lead to taxes going up in “your’’ community. “I see TIF as corporate welfare,’’ said Nelson, who was against the new TIF in Virginia.

    Councilor Johnson said he gets many calls on clothing stores, quality of life and making improvements. For a $500,000 investment in taxpayer dollars that will be returned to us, he said, we are getting multiple quality of life stores coming into our community so we don’t have to drive to other communities for clothing, fast food, etc.

    “We are looking forward for this community,’’ he said. “Five hundred thousand over 15 years is a very good investment in how we need to move forward.’’

    Public Safety Center Project

    The council passed an authorization to proceed for the $31.75 million Public Safety Center Project.

    Funds include $11.5 million in state bonding, $20 million in USDA funding and $349,678 in grants from Iron Range Resources.

    The center, which will house both the Police and Fire Departments, will be built along Second Avenue between 8th Street South and 10th Street South.

    Bids were received in August 2023 and $4 million million was removed from the project, which is now currently within budget, See-Benes said.

    A groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for May 6 with construction of footings and foundationwith equipment mobilization in mid-May, Mayor Larry Cuffe Jr. said.

    In other business, the council:

    • Passed a motion to direct city staff to review the city ordinance regarding refuse collection and potential change for pickup of garbage and also individual recycling.

    • Passed a motion 6-1 to fill the library associate-youth services position at the library. Councilor Liz Motley was the only no vote. She said she voted against because Hibbing’s population is about twice as big as Virginia’s, while its library budget is about half as much.

    Johnson said the population has nothing to do with circulation and the Virginia library has one of the highest circulations in the region. Councilor Gary Friedlieb added a price can’t be put on the value of the top notch library programming in Virginia.

    Cuffe said there has been a lot of angst about the number of Virginia Library staff. He favors filling the position because it is critical to the services provide to Virginia’s youth. He said he wouldn’t support the position if it was another library clerk. A library clerk position was already filled, he added.

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