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Dollar Tree plans to open Wadena store

This fall, bargain hunters will have a new place to shop in Wadena.

Dollar Tree, a discount variety store with nearly 5,000 locations in the United States and Canada, plans to open a location on a vacant lot north of Super One Foods at the corner of Juniper Avenue and 1st Street Northwest.

At its May 13 meeting, the city council unanimously approved a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement with Green Bay-based United Development Group, authorizing up to $140,000 in property tax breaks for the company to build an 8,000 square foot retail store. The agreement lists the estimated market value of the property as $974,571, although city and county officials expect it to be lower.

Dollar Tree will provide about 14 full-time jobs with health insurance benefits that would pay between $10 and $13 an hour, according to a worksheet the city committee used to score the project.

Now that the council has approved TIF, the developer expects to close on the land by June 1 and finish construction by Sept. 15 so Dollar Tree can open about Oct. 1, said Rick Johnson, principal at United Development Group, LLC.

"We will be the landlords and the company will run the store ..." he said. "We've done quite a few of these and this is the smallest community we've put one up in."

Based on market analysis, Johnson said, Dollar Tree decided opening a store in Wadena makes sense.

"They like to be by Walmart," he said. "They consider it the same customer. Quite frankly, Walmart doesn't really have a problem with them.

Johnson said the TIF money makes the project viable, because the company won't be able to charge as much in rent as they do in larger communities.

Under the agreement, the developer will save up to $1,555 per year on property taxes over the next nine years, though the exact amount will be determined when County Assessor Lee Brekke evaluates the completed project.

Right now, Brekke said, the county, city and school district fetch a combined $1,450 annually in property taxes for the vacant property. Depending on the assessed value - and future changes in the market and tax law - the developed property should yield between $30,000 to $40,000 per year, he said.

Because the school district and county also collect property taxes, state law requires they be given a 30 day notice before the public hearing, which was held at the beginning of the monthly council meeting.

"I received no indication from either party that there would be any question or opposition to the TIF plan," said Dean Uselman, Wadena planning and zoning director.

After the city TIF committee found the project met minimum requirements, council members voted in April to hire a consultant to craft an agreement.

Wadena has never rejected a TIF request that made it to the council. The program has seen a resurgence over the past year, aiding Mason Brothers' expansion of Abby's Bakery and a Merickel office suite, among other projects.

"It seems like we are sort of in that groove when it comes to development," Mayor Wayne Wolden said at the April meeting."

On May 13, Wolden said he noticed United Development Group also does a lot of projects with another company - on its website, it claims to be "the preferred developer of Maurices and Dollar Tree" - and he asked Johnson whether he would be back with another project "any time soon."

Johnson said there are no immediate plans.

"If Dollar Tree does well I could see more development out there," he said.

Wadena resident Jody Grossinger, the only member of the public to speak at the hearing, said she's familiar with the store and is happy it's coming to town.

"I think it would be great for our community," she said. "I don't think it would affect any of our other businesses at all."