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Boreal Community Media

Cook County Chamber seeks business support of two proposed development projects in Tofte

Dec 03, 2021 06:36AM ● By Editor

Architectural drawings from the Downtown Tofte development proposal.  Image: Downtown Tofte Residential & Commercial Development

From Jim Boyd, Executive Director of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce - December 2, 2021

At its Nov. 18 meeting, the Chamber board heard presentations on two exciting new proposals that would combine new retail space with new long-term rental housing in Tofte. These are real-deal proposals, offered by respected business people with the resources, the experience and the skills to see these projects through to completion. 

The Chamber board voted to endorse both projects for possible state funding from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and to request that area businesses do the same. 

Most important are letters of support from employers who have more than 20 employees and who are within 25 miles from Tofte. We are interpreting those requirements to include seasonal worker totals and to stretch to Grand Marais, which is just beyond 25 miles. If you narrowly miss those requirements, please still submit a letter.  

We hope when you grasp the impact these two projects would have on Tofte and on Cook County, you will agree they deserve unqualified support.

Sawbill Village, proposed by Rob Dieter for land he owns on the south side of Highway 61, opposite the Holiday Station Store in Tofte, would be a $2.5-$3 million project that includes six apartments, three retail spaces and one dining space. (Please see the Sawbill Village Overview document, attached)

Downtown Tofte is proposed by Joe Swanson, new owner of Bluefin Bay, and Dennis Rysdahl is consulting on the community outreach and financing portion of the project.  Many know Dennis sold Bluefin to Swanson but still owns AmericInn, north of Highway 61. The “Downtown Tofte” project proposes two buildings, sited between AmericInn and Sawtooth Outfitters north of Highway 61. Estimated cost of the “Downtown Tofte” project is over $5.4 million. It would include 14 apartments and six retail spaces. Please see the attached “Downtown Tofte” pdf for details.

Some businesses are a fair distance from Tofte, but you still stand to benefit from the addition of 20 new long-term rental apartments to the housing stock there. Here’s how: Someone who works in Tofte may have found the closest rental property was in Grand Marais or Lutsen despite the distance from work. Making new long-term housing available closer to those Tofte jobs thus might help free up Grand Marais and Lutsen rental housing for those working close by. Adding housing anywhere in Cook County benefits people everywhere in Cook County.

We are incredibly fortunate to have individuals like Rob Dieter, Joe Swanson and Dennis Rysdahl willing to undertake the complicated, time-consuming work required to create projects like this and then bring them into being. They need us to help them as they work to help our communities. 

Attached is a standardized draft letter to fill out and return in two copies, one for Sawbill Village, to [email protected] or to [email protected] and one for Downtown Tofte, to Dennis Rysdahl at [email protected]

To be most useful, the letters should be received by Dennis and Rob before the end of business on Monday, Dec. 13.

If you meet or are close to the requirements for submitting a letter of support to MHFA, please do. Cook County desperately needs long-term rental housing for its workforce. Here we have two entrepreneurs working hard to answer that need. We should support them.