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Kenmare’s downtown west side square has looked bleak for too many years.
West side business square will be all new . . . The first wall
panel of the new building (center, above) on Kenmare's west side
square was erected August 27th by Reishus Construction.
Structural insulated panels are being used for the construction,
and progress will go quickly on the first phase of the project.
Kenmare Drug and a new laundromat are both slated to move
into the new stores at the north end of the block, with space
available for more retail operations. The buildings pictured at
the south end of the west side will be demolished after the first
phase of construction is finished. Then, construction on the
second phase of the west side will begin, with completion
of the entire project expected in about a year.
One week later . . . Laboring on Labor Day, the Reishus
Construction crew adds a panel (upper center of photo) on Monday
to add height at the spot where they started erecting
the walls a week earlier. This first phase of the project is valued
at $1.36 million with the total cost, after completion of
the south half of the block, estimated at $2.4 million.
By Caroline Downs
Kenmare’s downtown west side square has looked bleak for too many years.
One of the stores closed its doors to the public just over a decade ago.
Two others were destroyed by fire three years ago, adjoining another lot left empty from a store fire in 1995.
One business was damaged so heavily by vandalism that the owner locked up.
Only Kenmare Drug and the Gift Bank, owned by Kim Essler, continue to thrive, a hive of activity along an otherwise silent block.
Silent, that is, until demolition and new construction this summer signalled the rise of a new west side.
“Jamie Livingston and I started talking about the whole west side of the square being pretty much empty,” said Jim Jorgenson, president of State Bank & Trust of Kenmare and a principal in Antediluvian, LLP, the company behind a project to rebuild the west side. “We wanted to do something to improve the downtown area.”
Jorgenson started acquiring property on the west side square. He discussed his vision for the project with Essler, whose agreement to sell the current Kenmare Drug property and relocate in one of the new stores was key to the project’s success.
Reishus Construction of Mohall was hired as the contractor, with owner Scott Reishus and Jorgenson consulting together on an overall design for stores to fill the block.
“Our intent all along was to get the building built and get a few tenants,” Jorgenson said. “Then, I will gift it to the Kenmare Community Development Corporation so they have spaces to put businesses looking to come into town.”
“Having these stores gifted to us will be a great tool to entice entrepreneurs from Kenmare to start a business or entice outside businesses to consider expanding to Kenmare,” said Livingston, who also serves on the Kenmare Community Development Corporation board. “Because we are acquiring the property with no debt, the rents will be set low enough to just cover taxes, insurance and maintenance.”
Both men recognize that community residents take pride in Kenmare’s square. “This community has been built on this downtown square atmosphere,” Jorgenson explained. “There are very few towns I’ve found that are like this, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, being one. We feel the downtown area here is very viable.”
Space for seven
stores in two phases
The project is taking place in two phases. The vacant structures that remained on the north half of the block were demolished earlier this summer. A new concrete foundation has been poured, and the building is taking shape.
Once Phase I is completed and Kenmare Drug has moved to its new location, the buildings on the south end of the block will be razed and construction on the stores will continue.
“The hope would be that Phase II could be done by this time next year,” said Livingston.
“There will be a total of seven stores,” Jorgenson said. Those stores will be separated by solid walls, and each will have its own front and back entrances, overhead delivery door facing the alley, and bathroom. The entire building will be heated and air-conditioned.
According to Jorgenson, four of the stores will be 35’ x 80’, two will have 40’ foot storefronts, and the drugstore will be sized at 80’ by 80’. “There is some adaptability if there is need for a larger store,” he said as he described how two of the smaller stores could be combined by removing a wall. “The front of the buildings will give the appearance of individual shops.”
All the stores will be built on a single level, with no second story.
A new sidewalk with curbs and parking for handicapped accessibility will be poured the length of the block. “And our intention is to add four streetlights, similar to the decorative lights in the city park,” said Jorgenson.
He and Livingston believe such a building will attract businesses to Kenmare. “We’re hopeful we can get some retail stores in here,” Jorgenson said, “and we do have somebody who’s interested in establishing a family restaurant.”
He continued, “We are interested in businesses that will hopefully bring more people into town, and we’d like to see something that would employ multiple families.”
The Kenmare city council approved a building permit for Phase I of the project, valued at $1.36 million, during their June meeting. The completed building will be 24,000 square feet, with the total project cost estimated to be $2.4 million.
Jorgenson is happy to contribute to the future of downtown Kenmare. “Kenmare has been a very good town to our family and our employees,” he said. “We’re doing something that should make everybody proud of this community and what the downtown area has to offer.”
Panels stacked around downtown lots
are becoming new walls
Reishus and his crew started putting up the Phase I walls, which consist of structural insulated panels (SIPs), last week.
“They’re easy to erect,” he said as he and two assistants installed panels Thursday afternoon. The SIPs consist of two sheets of oriented strand board that sandwich an insulating foam core. The resulting unit is reported to have a higher tensile strength than traditionally-built walls.
“There’s no air movement through here,” Reishus said. “This is solid foam. The R-value is so much higher, and they say moisture can’t penetrate these.”
He continued, “We have to put in the doors and windows yet, but basically, this is ready for the electrician and sheetrocker.”
The exterior facade of the stores will be overlaid with a stucco coating and accent brickwork or rock work, still to be designed.
Certain aspects of the project have been subcontracted, with Northland Electric, Inc. of Mohall scheduled to handle the electrical work. “Jake Smith [of Kenmare] will do the actual plumbing, installing the toilets and sinks,” said Reishus, “and we’ll have another company doing the heating and air conditioning.”
Stacks of SIPs panels can be seen arranged on the city’s recycling plant property north of the building site right now, as well as on the lot at the corner of Central Avenue and 2nd Street. Reishus expressed his gratitude to the city of Kenmare for allowing temporary storage of the building materials at those locations.
“The city’s been really cooperative,” he said, adding that being able to haul truckloads of debris from the demolished buildings directly to the landfill was helpful. “They understand [this project] is for the betterment of the community.”
He noted the project’s construction schedule depends on weather conditions, with the intention to have the new Kenmare Drug store ready by early 2013.
A laundromat at the far north end of the block should also be ready at that time, leased by a business owner who is building a new laundromat in Mohall as well. “The washing machines are coming,” Reishus said.
Kenmare Drug may
relocate to new store
after the New Year
With skilled contractors and luck with mild winter weather, the new year will bring a new home for Kenmare Drug. “We’re excited to move over there,” said pharmacist Kim Essler, owner of Kenmare Drug. “We don’t know if we’ll make any drastic changes in our services, but we may have more space.”
Essler plans to make the transition as smoothly as possible, which means moving the pharmacy itself on a weekend if possible so customers’ prescription needs can be served without interruption. “At the front end, we may be a little unorganized for a while,” Essler added with a smile.
All the gift items, home decor, greeting cards, toys, kitchen items, over-the-counter medications and wrapping paper currently sold in the store will move, too, along with the White Buffalo Soda Fountain. “We’re going to try to incorporate the atmosphere and the equipment from the soda fountain to the extent possible,” said Essler. He promised the menu of favorite ice cream treats would remain the same.
His staff looks forward to the opportunity to serve customers in a new building, but the transition is bittersweet. “We probably will lose a bit of the ambiance,” Essler said. “The Gift Bank area has been a neat historical building for us to use. We’ll continue to carry the gift items and pretty much everything we have now, and we’ll try to incorporate some of the fixtures from the Gift Bank if we can.”
As the only business owner currently open on the west side square and the first confirmed tenant in the new stores, Essler would like to see other retail businesses join him. He also hopes local and area residents will support those businesses.
“It’s a challenge to figure out what to fill in those stores,” he said, listing clothing, auto parts supply, and technology as possible options. “And it takes some commitment by the community to check their local businesses first.”
Then he smiled again and mentioned another aspect of the upcoming move that’s been on his mind. “I haven’t figured out what my official address will be yet!” he said.
for business owners
Persons or businesses interested in the retail space soon to be available on Kenmare’s west side square should contact Livingston at 701-385-4287 for more information.
“We love this town. Our heart and soul are in this town,” Jorgenson said as he described the motivation behind his vision for the west side square. “Anything we can do to make it a better community, we’re all for it.”