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Granite Falls River Front Revitalization saves building

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GRANITE FALLS -- A citizens' group is saving a historic downtown building from the wrecking ball in Granite Falls.

As members of Granite Falls River Front Revitalization watched Monday, Granite Falls City Council members approved a proposal by the group to save the 1924-built K.K. Berge building.

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The decision was made at the regular council meeting Monday.

City Manager Bill Lavin said the city will transfer ownership of the building to the group. The city will also award $150,000 in flood mitigation monies to the group.

The state funds were to be used for demolishing and removing the building from the floodplain.

The funds will be used instead by Granite Falls River Front Revitalization to raise the first floor of the building by 20½ inches to be above the 904.4-foot elevation considered the 100-year flood level at that site. The funds will also be used to "flood proof'' a lower level of the building that faces the Minnesota River.

Electrical services and utilities will all be moved above the 100-year flood level.

The revitalization group collected more than $32,000 from supporters to save the building. It has also obtained architectural and engineering drawings for the remodeling, as well as quotes from local contractors. It estimates that the building can be remodeled and meet flood proofing and safety codes for $168,000. The group is promoting the building's rescue as the first step of a larger campaign to reinvent the city's downtown. The K.K. Berge building will serve as the "front porch'' for a revitalized downtown, according to the group.

Nearby buildings including the Granite Falls City Hall were previously razed due to their location within the floodplain.

The lower level of the K.K. Berge building has experienced flooding, and waters in 1997 reached just below the first floor framing.

The building most recently housed Korthuis Jewelry, which moved to a location in Prentice Commons, a previously flood-proofed building in the downtown.

The Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce will move its office into the K.K. Berge building, and Clean Up our River Environment plans to store kayaks and canoes there to promote river-based recreation in the community.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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