Talk of a Kwik Trip opening in Norwood Young America has been circulating around the community for years, but concrete steps have now been taken to make that talk a reality.
Hans Zietlow, director of real estate for Kwik Trip, Inc., confirmed earlier this week that the company has signed purchase agreements with three area property owners to acquire about 3.5 acres of land near the intersection of Highway 212 and Highway 5.
That location currently includes the vacant Crossroads Restaurant building, an open section of land west of Crossroads formerly used for a convenience store that has since been removed, and a lot that is used as storage for dumpsters behind the elementary school.
Surveys and environmental testing could begin as early as next week. Once that process is complete, a site plan will be submitted to the city for approval in January or February. Site plans will also be sent to the county and state for driveway access points.
“If all goes well we’ll plan on building it this next summer, the summer of 2013,” said Zietlow, adding that he does not anticipate any issues with that preliminary process. “We’ll probably need to do a little environmental cleanup on the site, but that’s not a big issue, and I think the preliminary meetings with the city staff were very good.”
Christie Rock, the city’s economic development coordinator, agreed.
“I think that the Kwik Trip project is great redevelopment for a highly visible, but underutilized gateway intersection in Norwood Young America,” she said. “We realize this new business may create some challenges for existing Norwood Young America businesses, but it is our hope that this project will serve as a catalyst for additional future commercial development in other locations within the community — even potentially spurring growth to the west.”
NYA a prime location
Though Norwood Young America does not have a large enough population to show up as a blip on Kwik Trip’s expansion radar, it’s location has made it a site of interest for the company.
“We’ve been looking at Norwood Young America for a long time and have always just passed because of the smaller population base there. But with the traffic and with the ability to catch the people who are continuing west on Highway 212, we decided to go with it if we could get all the property assembled at the same time,” said Zietlow, explaining that the convenience store and gas station chain does not generally operate in cities with less than 5,000 people.
“We do believe that by locating here rather than in Glencoe, we can probably catch some of the business that is going to Glencoe here in Norwood Young America. We believe we would see some residual business from Glencoe, which makes it a little bit better site,” he said.
An complicating factor in the process had been the fact that the necessary land area for the project had been separately owned by three different entities, but that complication was evidently ironed out.
“It’s an awkward configuration of properties, really none of which would have an easy time standing alone. It’s three pieces of property that in order to be developed well, all have to be assembled. Sometimes assembling properties is difficult because you have to get three property owners who are all ready to sell at the same time. To do a high quality, cohesive development the stars only align every once in a while,” said Zietlow.
If all goes ahead as planned, the store in NYA will be closely modeled on the Hutchinson location, which includes a 6,000-square foot building made of brick with a gas canopy, a separate diesel canopy, and an automated car wash, also made of brick. The Crossroads building will be removed to make room for the new structures.
One intriguing possibility for the local site is the potential installation of a delivery system for compressed natural gas, which some trucking companies and cities are now converting their fleets to. Regular gasoline vehicles can also be converted to that fuel.
“That’s one of the energies of the future. Mostly it’s just trucks that use compressed natural gas right now, but eventually smaller vehicles will start using it,” said Zietlow. “I drive a compressed natural gas pickup truck. I spend $1.59 per gallon and get about 28 miles per gallon. So if you drive any amount of miles, it makes a lot of sense.”
Zietlow said that by the end of 2013 there will be about 20 facilities throughout the Kwik Trip service region of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa with compressed natural gas. Perhaps because the delivery system is very expensive to install at about $1.5 million, Zietlow said he doesn’t believe there are any natural gas facilities along Highway 212 at present.
“It’s expensive to install, but people aren’t going to start utilizing it as an automotive energy source until someone is willing to install the facilities. We’re probably one of the first in the nation to start putting these in,” said Zietlow. “That’s definitely one of the possibilities [for Norwood Young America]. We’ll do surveys first to see if there’s anyone out there who is using it.”
While the project isn’t necessarily a sure thing yet (the purchase agreements are signed but the sales have not been closed), Zietlow was optimistic about a 2013 construction date.
“I don’t foresee any issues with it,” he said.