After hearing only positive comments about the project Monday night, the Decorah City Council unanimously approved a development agreement to help with the renovation of the former Quillin’s for a new Hy-Vee grocery store.
Under the agreement, Ridge Development Company of Cedar Rapids will receive tax increment finance (TIF) rebates from the city for up to $425,000 for the renovations if Hy-Vee agrees to sign a 10-year lease for the property. The developer also has agreed the property’s minimum assessed valuation will be $1 million.
Ridge Development Company of Cedar Rapids, doing business as DECO Bluffs Development LLC, has proposed renovating the 25,000-square-foot commercial building located at 915 Short St. for a new Hy-Vee grocery. Quillin’s Quality Foods closed in December.
Ridge Development is in the process of purchasing the Quillin’s building from Kent and Marla Klocke of Decorah.
The development company has asked for TIF assistance to support its efforts to complete the project. TIF diverts future property tax revenue toward an economic development project or public improvement project in the community.
Ron Fadness of Decorah said the renovation of Quillin’s for a Hy-Vee is a “wonderful thing to support.” He acknowledged there is a cost associated with the tax incentives but that it’s a “good investment.”
Scott Carlson of Decorah told the Council the community needs a diverse economic base and that there’s a lot to be gained from a new Hy-Vee.
“I’m a Fareway guy – I like Fareway -- but it’s important to pull as many people to Decorah as we can,” he said.
Not only would a Hy-Vee serve local residents, it would serve the region, according to Carlson. People who come to Decorah to shop at Hy-Vee also will shop in downtown Decorah and other areas of Decorah, Carlson said.
There’s no economic downside, other than the temporary loss of the tax rebates, he added.
Mark Jensen of rural Decorah reminded the Council of its leadership role for the entire county.
“A bunch of what happens in this area happens in Decorah and makes an impact across the county – it goes far beyond your own constituency. People outside Decorah appreciate the effort you’ve put into this and the impact it has on our lives,” he said.
Jensen said there are no grocery stores in Ridgeway where he works, or Bluffton where he lives.
Brian Ridge of Ridge Development thanked Winneshiek County Development Inc. (WCDI) Director Stephanie Fromm, City Manager Chad Bird and the Council for their hard work and time spent in reviewing the project and development agreement.
He said the project would have a positive impact on the city and the region and bring quality jobs with benefits to Decorah.
“We look forward to being a good partner with the city of Decorah,” Ridge said.
“I encourage our Council to stand behind Hy-Vee – it will be a wonderful addition to our community,” Becky Weiand of Decorah said.
Fromm thanked city officials and Ridge Development for their hard work, due diligence and commitment to the project.
She acknowledged making decisions on incentives isn’t always easy. For the area’s future, she encouraged continued partnerships with “good, quality developers, both inside and outside the community.”

Council discussion
After the public hearing, Council member Kirk Johnson made a motion to approve the development agreement that was seconded by Council member Andy Carlson.
City Manager Chad Bird outlined some of the “finer points” of the agreement.
The developer has agreed to a minimum assessed valuation of $1 million, which could increase during the time of the agreement. Earlier, a minimum assessed valuation of $1.6 million was under consideration.
Bird said based on the lower property valuation, it might be harder for the developer to attain the total of $425,000 in tax rebates since the amount applicable for rebates is less.
“It’s capped at $425,000 or 15 years – whatever comes first,” he said.
Council member Dan Bellrichard asked how the lower valuation was determined and Bird said the amount of investment the developer anticipated putting into the project has changed.
“Right now, the understanding is Hy-Vee is putting a lot of their own energy and finances into the project that the developer is not connected to. In terms of this agreement, it was felt that the lower number is better,” Bird said.
Ridge said the developers felt the lower assessed value was fairer to the city and to Ridge Development.
“We believe the value will far exceed that with what we anticipate Hy-Vee will put into the building,” Ridge said.
“We believe the assessed value will exceed the $1 million. If it doesn’t get to $1.6 million it will take longer to capture the $425,000 and maybe we never will,” he said.
Ridge said his firm didn’t want to be “locked” into a higher rate when the actual assessed value might be less.
“Let the system work on a natural progression – the assessor will assess it at what’s it’s valued at. We felt that was a fair way to do it,” Ridge said.
After the Council unanimously voted to approve the agreement, there was applause from members of the public, from several Council members and Mayor Lorraine Borowski.

Time line
After the meeting, Ridge said he doesn’t have a timeline for the renovation project or when Hy-Vee would open its new store.
He said he expected remodeling would start “hopefully sooner rather than later,” but added there is still work to do on the plans.
“We’re getting everything finalized, getting building plans all in order. It’s all in the works,” Ridge told Decorah Newspapers.
He said he anticipated when a more definitive schedule is known, Hy-Vee officials would be making an announcement.
Fromm said Tuesday that she is grateful to the citizens of Winneshiek County for the amount of support and commitment they’ve shown for the Hy-Vee project.