by Dan Rafter
Oppidan Investment Company has big plans for Baxter, Minn., a resort town located about a two-hours drive north of Minneapolis.
But these plans hinge on the plans of Gander Mountain. The retailer is leasing a 117,000-square-foot retail site in the city, a lease that is due to expire in the near term, though no one is releasing an exact date for this. Oppidan purchased the retail site earlier this year, spending more than $3 million to do so, and plans to redevelop it into a retail power center.
But whether this will happen depends largely on the future plans of Gander Mountain.
“For years, developers, includin Oppidan, have had their eye on this property and have seen the potential for a multi-tenant retail center,” said Paul Tucci, a developer with Oppidan. “With the amount of time left on Gander’s lease, the time was right to acquire this property and begin planning for its future.”
What that future will look like is still uncertain. But Oppidan officials say that they have already initiated talks with about 12 potentail retail tenants who would be interested in leasing space in a new power center in Baxter.
And the mix of potentail tenants is a varied one: Oppidan has spoken with grocers, sporting-goods retailers, pet stores and restaurant clients, among others.
Joe Ryan, chief executive officer for Oppidan, said that the time was right to purchase this property. And the 117,000-square-foot site near the intersection of highways 371 and 210 in Baxter has long been one that Oppidan has desired.
“We have had this property under purchase agreement earlier,” Ryan said. “Five years ago, we were going to do the same thing. But Gander Mountain had a long time remaining on its lease. Now Gander Mountain is nearing the end of its lease. We acquired it not knowing what their plans are. But we think enough of this site that the move made sense for us.”
Ryan would not say when Gander Mountain’s lease is set to expire, only that the lease is nearing its end. The retailer is out of options. Once its lease expires, Gander Mountain would have to enter into negotiations for a renewal or leave the site.
The timeline, then, for redevelopment of the site is a bit sketchy. Ryan said that if Gander Mountain does not enter into a new agreement for the site, then Oppidan could start re-developing the site by late 2016.
Even with this uncertainty, the site’s potential has Ryan excited.
“We have been active in this market for a dozen years. It’s a great destination in central Minnesota,” Ryan said. “It’s a huge vacation resort area. There are summer cabins all over the area. The housing market there is growing. We are excited to be a part of the Baxter market.”
The Baxter-Brainerd community has seen a retail boom in recent years. One of the biggest additions? A Costco store that recently opened just south of the Gander Mountain site. Other big-name retailers in the market include Maurice’s, Kohl’s, JC Penney, Target, The Home Depot and a new Super Walmart.