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‘Lighthouse of the west': International firm eyes Dickinson for $300M development

Submitted Graphic Above is a rendering of plan for a “retail garden mall and community lifestyle development” Barons Group of Companies plans to build in west Dickinson

A Singapore-based investment company has set its sights on Dickinson for its next project, a high-end, 280-acre residential and retail development slated for construction in 2015.

Barons Group of Companies released conceptual plans earlier this week for Barons Vista, billed as a “retail garden mall and community lifestyle development” on the south side of Interstate 94 Exit 59. It would be situated between the Dickinson Hills Shopping Center and West Ridge developments.

The ambitious design includes up to 700 housing units, an indoor mall, hotel, amphitheatre, a family friendly park and a 15-story tower to act as a “lighthouse to travelers arriving in Dickinson,” which, once completed, would be one of the tallest buildings in North Dakota.

Cathy Cronen, owner of the Cronen Catherine Renee real estate agency and managing broker for Barons Vista, said the project has been a “dream for about a year.”

Barons Group wants to make the planned community an “iconic feature for Dickinson, to do something special,” she said. “We hope this will be a magnet for the whole western part of the state.”

Company behind the plan Barons Group of Companies formed in 2009, according to the firm’s website, and grew to include boutique development firm Property Barons Pte. Ltd., Barons Capital Pte. Ltd. and now Barons Vista LLC.

Cronen said she met Barons Group founding principal Danny Lim last February and has been working with his group ever since as they toured western North Dakota, conducting feasibility studies and identifying investment opportunities. Lim was among the roughly 200 attendees at last April’s Bakken Investment Conference in Minot, Forum News Service reported.

The company’s investment areas include the United Kingdom, Asia, Australia and the U.S. It holds residential and commercial property in Malaysia and the U.S., including apartment complexes in Florida and projects in Texas. Barons Vista would be the group’s second undertaking in the Bakken area. It broke ground last fall on Barons Lodge, a 61-room hotel in Killdeer that is expected to open this summer after weather delays pushed back completion.

“They’ve got the building all set together, and you see them working there every day,” Killdeer Mayor Dan Dolechek said. “It should be open soon.”

He said the company might continue building around the area, with talks of a hotel-adjacent restaurant and convenience store.

Both Dolechek and Dunn County Commissioner Daryl Dukart said Barons’ work in Killdeer has been positive.

“They’ve been very good to work with,” Dolecheck said. The group even donated $2,000 toward a baseball field the city plans on building this summer.

International attention And why do international investors want to get involved in North Dakota?

Simply put: the Bakken.

The region’s rapid population growth and influx of business has caught national and international attention, including that of U.K.-based investment firm Property Horizons, Ltd. Their development group North Dakota Developments LLC owns the Great American Lodge hotels in Watford City and Trenton.

“I guess we’re seeing developers from all over that are doing business in the Killdeer area,” Dolecheck said, adding Barons’ decision to build there “didn’t really surprise me, I guess.”

Dickinson presents an enticing investment opportunity for outside companies.

Purchasing power in the 22,000-square-mile trade area is expected to increase 4.7 percent annually to reach $2.4 billion by 2020, according to a report by the retail consulting firm McComb Group Ltd.

The Press was unable to speak to Lim, but touts the investment potential of the Bakken and invites investors to get in on a region that offers high returns. Lim’s LinkedIn profile says that Barons Vista investors can “enjoy at least 10 percent in annual returns.”

Local businesses alone might not be able to keep up with the growing market. The region needs more retail options and affordable housing, Cronen said, both of which Barons Group plan to provide with the estimated $300 million Barons Vista development.

“Businesses are stressed and doing as much as they can, but we’re lacking,” she said. “We can accommodate quite a few more.”

Next steps Plans for Barons Vista are still in the early creative stages, Cronen said, but moving forward “one step at a time.”

Barons Group has already submitted a comprehensive plan to the city, said Community Development Director Ed Courton.

Cronen and representatives from Barons, including Lim, will tentatively present a comprehensive plan amendment before the Planning and Zoning Commission on May 21. If approved, they will move forward with a planned unit development.

Barons has “had ongoing discussions with city officials,” City Administrator Shawn Kessel said.

Kessel said he remembers not long ago when people had never even heard of Dickinson.

Barons Vista “is an indication of how global the Bakken and Three Forks have put places like Dickinson on the map,” he said.