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Construction begins at Kandi Mall in Willmar

Shelby Lindrud / Tribune Construction has begun on a new commercial building at Kandi Mall. The building will be able to house three new businesses. It is part of Rockstep Capital's plan to revitalize the mall.

WILLMAR — There is movement at the Kandi Mall, as a construction crew has begun digging into the parking lot, to make room for a new retail building.

This additional building is part of the larger renovation project being planned by mall owner RockStep Capital.

This new retail space will be located between Tires Plus and the former Pizza Hut. It will have three units for tenants. The end caps will be 3,500 square feet and 1,800 feet, with the middle unit coming in at 1,200 square feet. Willmar Planning and Development Director Bruce Peterson said the building could house retail, restaurant and professional businesses.

"There is a mix. It's your basic strip center," Peterson said.

Kandi Mall manager John Vornholt said in a press release that information on tenants will be forthcoming.

"This new retail building has an expected completion date of early fall 2017," Vornholt said.

RockStep Capital, based in Houston, purchased the Kandi Mall in 2015 and added the shopping center to its portfolio of malls located across the country, including the mall in Virginia and Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Last summer representatives of RockStep Capital presented plans on the $6.5 million construction project at the mall, which not only includes the new retail building, but the remodeling of the old Kmart space and updates to the mall's signage and parking lot. The Kmart space is to be divided into three or four different retail spaces.

A $1.5 million, 10-year abatement of city, school and county taxes was approved for RockStep Capital, to help them complete the major project.

In addition to the tax abatement, the construction is paid for through private funding and owner equity.

When completed and with new tenants open, the mall project could add around 60 jobs, and increase the mall's payroll by over $1 million.

In May RockStep President Andy Weiner spoke to the Willmar Planning Commission about the importance of opening Kandi Mall to more than just traditional retail and restaurant tenants.

"You don't want to keep it empty. No one knows what the endgame is for the Amazon effect. At the end of the day we don't want an empty property there," Weiner said.

Already there have been updates in and around Kandi Mall. Autozone has begun construction on its new store on the west side of the mall and Anytime Fitness completed a massive remodel of its space in the strip center, also located west of the main mall building.

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