Project to bring apartments, preschool, commercial space to downtown Winona

Project to bring apartments, preschool, commercial space to downtown Winona

WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) - A $25 million project aims to revitalize Winona's downtown by turning a square currently just used for parking into residential and commercial space.

The Winona Port Authority, which develops commerce in the city, has been buying downtown properties for years in hopes of attracting private development, and now that’s happening.

"I remember everything that used to be there,” said Bob Kierlin, sole shareholder of Main Square Development LLC.

Now when Kierlin passes by the square on the 100 block of West Fifth Street, he doesn't see much.

"Nothing, except an old Hardee's hamburger building,” he said.

But he does notice opportunity. Kierlin is investing in a mixed-use project on the square.

"I think it's a great project for Winona,” he said.

In a full room Tuesday morning, he and city officials announced the plans, which include a mix of 60 upscale and market-rate apartments in the first phase.

"I think it sets the bar high for development as a city,” community development director Lucy McMartin said, adding that a housing study shows a need for this type of living space. 

"I'm just so excited to get this off the ground,” she said.

City manager Steve Sarvi hopes the apartment options will encourage young professionals to stick around.

"I'm really excited to have this number of people living in heart of downtown,” he said. “It should help to revitalize retail opportunities."

The square will also be home to a Montessori preschool built by Kierlin's Hiawatha Education Foundation.

"I've seen so many children come through Montessori programs of that level and have succeeded as a result,” Kierlin said.

The preschool will offer tuition subsidies to low-income families.

“It's a great opportunity to help lower-income kids,” Kierlin said. "We have the funds available and want to provide it to the families who can really use it."

Sarvi said since the project will get rid of parking, there are concerns about finding ways to address parking needs downtown. The city is looking into a few options.

Developers hope to start construction this summer and have commercial space available and both the preschool and first phase of apartments completed next year.

The timeline on a second phase of 20 to 30 apartments is to be decided.

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