Water View Business Park takes shape in S.E. Willmar

WILLMAR -- A county ditch and thousands of cubic yards of earth have been moved and streets and lots are being prepared for what's called the largest commercial development in the city's history.

WILLMAR -- A county ditch and thousands of cubic yards of earth have been moved and streets and lots are being prepared for what's called the largest commercial development in the city's history.

Duininck Bros. Inc. of Prinsburg received approval this year from county, state and federal regulatory offices to transform what had been 115 acres of farmland, wetlands and a soil storage area into Water View Business Park in southeast Willmar.

Mel Odens, city public works director, said Water View Business Park is probably the largest commercial development handled by city departments.

"It's the largest one that we can find,'' said Odens. "I guarantee it's the largest one in the last 15 years. I think it's a good project.''

Harris Duininck, vice president of Duininck Bros., which owns and is developing the business park, said his company has done large golf course and residential developments, but never a commercial project of this scope.


"I don't think anyone has ever brought in 115 acres in one commercial plat,'' says Duininck.

"This is the first one in the local community of this size.''

The business park's name reflects the development's ties to water.

"Basically, you'll be able to see the Grass Lake basin (southeast of the Highway 71/23 bypass) from this property,'' said Jason Ver Steeg, Duininck's director of engineering. "We thought this name reflected very well our commitment as a company and this development's commitment to clean water.''

Getting the project through the regulatory process took many months because the project affected wetlands and a county ditch.

Approval was needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Kandiyohi County planning and environmental services, city of Willmar planning services, and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

"The thing we need to realize is that this is a complicated project, and we need to recognize people's interests. What you see is a result of that. I think it's still a good project,'' said Odens.

Duininck said getting everyone together to agree was a challenge. The agreement includes re-establishing affected wetlands elsewhere in the watershed and restoring some wetlands on-site.


"Through a process of negotiation, consideration and discussion over a period of about two to three years, finally by the first of June of 2006 everybody was at the table and agreeable with the plan that was presented to them,'' Duininck recalls.

Duininck is proud of the business park's commitment to water quality. Storm-water runoff from buildings, parking lots and streets will first be treated in five settling ponds placed throughout the development before the water enters County Ditch 23 and is discharged to the southeast.

"There has never been a program that's cleaner and better than this for storm-water settlement that's being constructed here right now,'' said Duininck.

Odens said the original plan called for establishing a settling pond in the business park to treat storm water from the residential area to the north as well as water from the park. However, the agencies rejected the idea.

"We had to go back to storm ponds to serve just the business park,'' said Odens. "The idea was to make sure that the city would be no worse off after construction than it was before construction.''

County Ditch 23 was moved about 700 feet to the east to make room for the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter. The reconstructed ditch was sloped and seeded and will provide greater floodwater storage capacity than the old ditch, according to Duininck.

The development is zoned for general business and is anchored by two major retailers: Best Buy, which opened a 20,000-square-foot store Sept. 29 at the corner of South First Street and 24th Avenue Southeast; and the proposed 207,000-square-foot Wal-Mart at the corner of 19th Avenue and Fifth Street Southeast. Smaller lots border the streets and the Wal-Mart site.

"We think that there's going to be a lot of people looking at this because of the fact that Wal-Mart has chosen this site,'' said Duininck.


His family bought the land 25 to 30 years ago and envisioned business development there.

"A long time ago we knew that eventually if things continued and if the economy continued to strengthen, Willmar was going to be a point of destination from a standpoint of the shoppers and was going to be a community where people are going to want to raise their families,'' said Duininck.

"Willmar is a very progressive community and it's our community. This is a community we grew up in. We've been doing business in this community for the last 75 years, and we're just happier than a lark to be part of this development for the city,'' said Duininck.

Duininck wouldn't divulge the cost of the development, but he said the company has spent several million dollars on infrastructure, grading, ditch construction and the Wal-Mart portion.

Duininck says the business park will be a quality development.

"The benefit this is going to have to the community, and the tax benefit that the city of Willmar is going to pull off in this thing, is going to be extremely phenomenal once this thing is totally developed,'' he said.

What To Read Next
Get Local