WILLMAR - The newest retail development in Willmar is officially underway. A groundbreaking ceremony was held May 24 for Legacy Commons and construction has also begun.

"They started work this week," said Blake Graves, co-developer of the project. "Things are moving along nicely."

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The 7,600-square-foot building will be located on First Street South, between Minnesota Avenue Southwest and Monogalia Avenue Southwest. The retail center will be anchored by a Dominos Pizza with a pick-up window. This restaurant will be replacing the East U.S. Highway 12 location, which is owned by the Graves family. There will be space available for four other tenants, Graves said.

Graves is co-developing the project with the Marcus family, who owns Marcus Construction. The construction company will be building the retail space.

"We thought they would be a great partner," Graves said.

Construction was delayed due to the long winter. Graves said they had to wait until both the snow and frost were gone. This, in turn, has pushed back the completion date.

"Our goal is the center will be open by Nov. 1," Graves said.

The site for the new development is in an area of town eyed for revitalization. Graves said this portion of First Street, just south of the Litchfield Avenue and First Street intersection, has been a bit tired and in need of new development.

"We thought we could do this," Graves said.

Two additional lots have already been purchased for more development. The lots are located on the corner of Monogalia Avenue Southwest and Second Street Southwest, adjacent to the southwest corner of Legacy Commons. Two houses were moved from the site and the Willmar City Council approved rezoning the lots from low density multi-family residential to general business.

The Legacy Commons location used to have homes and a gas station. It cost a fair amount of money to bring the land back to an empty lot ready for development. A tax increment financing district, approved by the Willmar City Council, is helping pay for those pre-construction costs, which included tearing down the structures and removing the old gas tanks from the station.

"It costs a lot of money to do that," Graves said.

The council also approved a 25-year TIF for the east side of First Street South, across from the new development. While no development or rehabilitation projects have been made public for those lots, when the TIF district was approved in November 2017, City Planning and Development Director Bruce Peterson said having the TIF already in place would give the city flexibility when working with developers.

The 15-year TIF district for the Legacy Commons project made it possible for the developers to move forward with it, which they hope will spur additional development and revitalization on the northern stretch of First Street South.

"The Graves and Marcus families are excited to see more growth on First Street," Graves said. "We think it's going to be a great project for Willmar and the surrounding area."