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Plan review for Jennie-O office project approved by commission

WILLMAR — The Willmar Planning Commission has approved a plan review for the proposed Jennie-O Turkey Store corporate office expansion project.

Work on the project, which could cost up to $7 million, is anticipated to begin in June and end next year.

The project will add 35,391 square feet to the present 20,500-square-foot office and expand parking for visitors and employees on the old Highway 40 right-of-way.

During discussion last week, City Planner Megan DeSchepper said the company bought from the city land along Industrial Drive Southwest (former State Highway 40) and a parcel near the Public Works garage for the expansion.

She described the architecture as a little more showy than the current style. Randy Alsleben, Jennie-O director of engineering, agreed.

“I think we’re going to be an attractive addition to the industrial park,’’ he said.

Alsleben said the office expansion will go east to the current parking lot and north of the current building. The new main entrance will be in the center section.

The design will be an attractive precast concrete and the window look will be like the current windows but the currently exposed brick will be covered.

Also, a clear story with a raised center will bring light into the building.

Alsleben said the land purchase agreement with the city has been executed. But he said the agreement cannot be finalized until after the Willmar Avenue Southwest project is completed. He said the Willmar Avenue project is waiting for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to complete the railroad crossing work before Duininck Inc. can complete the street work.

Alsleben said Jennie-O will reshape the banked, high-speed curve on former Highway 40 and create a private driveway off Willmar Avenue into the main corporate parking lot.

Taco Bell plan, Bethesda permit OK’d In other business, the Planning Commission approved plan review for a proposed Taco Bell restaurant and approved a conditional use permit for the proposed Bethesda Nursing Home expansion.

The proposed Taco Bell restaurant would be located just east of Arby’s on 24th Avenue Southeast. The location is zoned for general business and the site requires plan review because it has a drive-through, DeSchepper said.

Barb Schneider of Border Foods of New Hope said the company is a Taco Bell franchisee with about 80 restaurants in Minnesota and also has some in Wyoming and South Dakota.

She said Border Foods began working on coming to Willmar six or eight months ago and is working on due diligence on a purchase agreement for the approximately 40,000-square-foot site. The building will have an earth-tone color, she said.

Bethesda of Willmar is proposing a 125-bed short-term and long-term care addition to Bethesda Nursing Home, 901 Willmar Ave. S.E. Three existing twin homes (owned by Bethesda) on the northwest portion of the property will be removed to allow room for parking lot expansion.

The commission approved the conditional use permit after holding a public hearing. No one from the public spoke during the hearing.

DeSchepper said Bethesda will be closing Heritage Center nursing home on Second Street Southeast and moving those beds to the Willmar Avenue site.

Rick Moore from the architectural firm of Horty Elving Associates of Minneapolis said Bethesda will close Heritage Center to consolidate those beds onto one campus at the Willmar Avenue site. The project will create more private rooms and create smaller “households’’ for a less institutional look.

The Jennie-O plan review, the Taco Bell plan review and Bethesda conditional use permit will go to the City Council tonight in the commission’s minutes.

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