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Wadena Chamber could make move to The Depot

Jed Brazier, Wadena Chamber of Commerce Executive Director1 / 2
The Depot building is under consideration as the new home of the Wadena Chamber of Commerce. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal2 / 2

A group that restored the Burlington Northern Railway Depot back to life and has been leasing the building since 2003 plans to move out this month. They also hope the Wadena Chamber of Commerce will move in.

News of the topic came at the most recent Wadena City Council meeting, Tuesday, July 10, by city administrator Janette Bower. The Partners for a Healthy Wadena Region is the group that currently leases the building. The Partners raised more than a half million dollars to restore the building now known as The Depot. Being committed to the future of the building they have been in conversations with chamber director Jed Brazier to continue use of the building.

Partners hope to withdraw from their lease agreement July 27 and asked the city to consider working with the Chamber on a new lease agreement.

The only issue with the contract is that the partners did not give 60 days notice before the automatic renewal, which was a part of the contract. However, if the Chamber was able to step in to the lease, there seemed to be little concern over the lack of notice.

According to a document shared with council members from Partner's board member Bob Grendahl, the Partner's board felt the Chamber would be a good fit to help keep The Depot an important part of city life. Brazier agrees.

"The Depot is a really special attraction and would make an ideal home for an organization like ours," Brazier said in an email. "While talks are very much in the preliminary stages, having the Chamber housed within an easily accessed and identifiable tourist destination makes sense from my perspective. Realistically, it's a vacant, beautiful, historic building with an office, people already utilize the Chamber office as the source for Wadena information and tourism info—why not put two together? Doing so would provide an opportunity for greater Depot availability to the community as well as increase visibility for the Chamber."

If this transfer takes place, the Partners noted they would transfer more than $24,000 in funds dedicated to Depot maintenance to the Chamber. These funds could provide a downpayment from Partners for long-term public use of the Depot.

"That is actually a really good idea," councilman Jesse Gibbs said of the Chamber making use of the building and continuing to offer use of the property for events.

The requests from Partner's for the Chamber, was that they maintain the status of The Depot on the National Register of Historic Places; and continue to rent the Depot at affordable rates for community events.

"At this point, obviously, no numbers have even been discussed and financially it'll have to work for all parties involved, but I would very much like to see that partnership happen," Brazier said. "It's a great opportunity for the community and hopefully other people can see that potential as well."

In other changes coming to the business sector:

• WDA executive director Dean Uselman said he continues work with Mercury Mosaics, a tile making company, on their plans to try to make Wadena their second location. They currently create handmade tile in their shop in the Minneapolis Arts District.

• Work on getting the new brewery on its feet continues. Uselman said the process is slower going than many would like.