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A piece of New London, Minn., commercial history comes to an end

This portion of the sprawling Tiger Marine building will be demolished with the rest of the building to create a new home for The Happy Sol, a popular clothing boutique in New London. Built about a century ago, the building was used to sell and service Model T and Model A automobiles. It has also played home to a pool hall and a boat retail and service business. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

NEW LONDON - A New London Main Street building with a century-long history that started with selling and servicing Model T cars and ended with selling and servicing boats - with a long stint as a pool hall in the middle - will be demolished this week.

Demolition of the former Tiger Marine building is expected to begin today.

The process to tear down and haul away the building, which is sprawled across three large lots, will take two to three days.

The building has been vacant since 2007.

Grumpy Moon Properties purchased the building and land and will construct a new commercial building for The Happy Sol, a popular clothing boutique currently housed in a leased building next door to Tiger Marine.

The new 8,612-square-foot building will have a street-level retail shop, a full basement and a front patio. Construction is expected to be completed by this fall.

Demolition of Tiger Marine will start in the rear of the L-shaped building, according to Brent Althoff, project manager with TerWisscha Construction Inc. of Willmar. The wall that faces Main Street will be the last to come down.

Recyclable materials and any hazardous materials have already been removed, but much of the structure will end up in the landfill, Althoff said.

The project is expected to be a big asset for the small town, which has a population of about 1,000.

On Wednesday the New London City Council is expected to take action on a proposal to create a tax increment financing district that will include the Tiger Marine building and a half-dozen other downtown commercial buildings.

If approved, a six-year plan would give Grumpy Moon Properties a total tax benefit of up to $40,000, said Trudie Guptill, New London City Clerk.

The developers will pay the original property taxes but will get a temporary tax break on the new, higher tax valuations that will result from the property's improvement.

Once the developers purchase, clear, survey and split the property, the city will purchase a portion of the land in the rear of the business and build an off-street parking lot, said Guptill.

Tiger Hanson, who purchased the longtime Main Street building in 1966 for his boat retail and service business, said the building "served its purpose" as an important part of the town's retail center.

He sold the business to his son-in-law in 2001 and the business closed in 2007.

Hanson said the building was built around 1913 and was first used to sell and service Model T and Model A automobiles.

"There were seven mechanics there at one time," said Hanson, who found a sign in the building advertising gas for 11.9 cents a gallon.

Hanson said he believes the automobile business closed during the Great Depression and said that the building was a pool hall for "many years" after that. Hanson, who graduated in 1956, admits he spent a fair amount of time in the pool hall when he was in high school.

It would end up being the home for his marine business for more than 40 years.

Guptill said the city is including other existing commercial buildings in the tax increment financing district - including some that are empty and listed for sale and others that may go on the market in the near future.

She said the council wants to be ready with a plan to subsidize future business growth and having a tax increment financing district will do that.

The council is still hoping to get a grocery store in town. Guptill said tax benefits available with a TIF district could make that venture more attractive to a potential business owner.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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