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Deadline extended to March 31 for rehab of downtown Willmar, Minn., building

Christi Wood, an employee of Paul's Electric, works Wednesday on the rehabilitation of the former John's Supper Club building in downtown Willmar. The building at the corner of Third Street and Benson Avenue Southwest is under renovation by owner Paul Kidrowski. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- Paul Kidrowski has given officials a written schedule of construction activities that he must complete under a 90-day deadline extension granted last month by the Willmar City Council to rehabilitate the former John's Supper Club building in downtown Willmar.

The council voted Dec. 19 to extend the Dec. 31 deadline by 90 days, provided Kidrowski submit a written schedule of construction activities he will undertake to have the rehab work completed by March 31. The schedule was due last Friday and city officials received it that day.

Further, the council said it intends to pursue penalties if the work is not completed by March 31 and the council directed city staff to research consequences for failure to complete construction such as negating the building permit, charging for special inspections, issuing demolition orders or financial penalties.

Kidrowski was optimistic he will complete work on the fire-damaged building by the March 31 extension. The schedule specifies dates by which various aspects of the project will be completed.

"We're doing our very, very, very best and I think we can,'' he told the Tribune on Wednesday.

Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services, said he's not sure what recourse the city will have if Kidrowski fails to comply with the latest extension. If Kidrowski is making progress, his building permit remains open, according to the building code, Peterson said.

He said Kidrowski violated the terms of the original agreement that called for work to be completed by last July 1 and the council granted Kidrowski a six-month extension at that time.

Peterson said the city will continue to perform biweekly inspections and make progress reports to the council's Community Development Committee.

"I'm just hopeful that Mr. Kidrowski is going to make some significant progress and get that property occupied so we can just put this behind us,'' Peterson said. He described significant progress as completion.

The building located at the corner of Third Street and Benson Avenue Southwest had been the site of John's Supper Club until the structure was damaged by fire on May 15, 1991. The building dates back to the late 1880s and was used for a variety of purposes, including the longtime restaurant and second-floor apartments until the fire.

Kidrowski, owner of Paul's Electric of Willmar, acquired the building from a customer some years ago. Kidrowski said he intends to move his business in there and also have a first-floor apartment and upstairs apartments.

He had been using the building for storage. But the slow pace of rehabilitation during the past 20 years has been a source of frustration for City Council members and city officials who have been urging Kidrowski to step up the rehab work.

Kidrowski told the council last month about the amount of structural work he's accomplished, that he's been on top of the project and he was doing his best to move it forward.

Mayor Frank Yanish told Kidrowski that the council has a conscience and didn't want to demolish a building that he's put a lot of time and effort into.

"I can see that happening. You see what we're up against as a council?'' Yanish asked.

"Thank you,'' said Kidrowski. "It's very, very possible to get the work done. Thank you for patience. I really believe it will be done.''

Council member Doug Reese, who worked in construction for 36 years, was not satisfied with the pace of work.

"You thank us for patience,'' he said. "Patience are running thin.''

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150