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New purpose proposed for old Sax Motor building

The former Sax Motor Co. building is surrounded in construction Friday afternoon. The Dickinson Planning and Zoning Commission gave unanimous support to a proposed rezoning to allow apartments, office space and parking in a renovation to give new purpose to the building.

Sax Motor Co. spent 87 years in downtown Dickinson before building a new dealership and service center on the north side of the city this year, leaving an empty lot and several empty buildings behind.

In mid-June, the company, under the name General Investment Corp., petitioned the Dickinson Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone the main building at 312 Villard Street West from general commercial to downtown commercial to allow the creation of apartments, office space and parking in the old building. The petition found unanimous approval within the commission.

General Investment Corp. also submitted the renovation as a renaissance zone project, giving it five years of tax breaks.

"Under the current general commercial zoning, it does not allow for residential uses, but downtown commercial does allow for multi-family uses," City/County Planner Steve Josephson said.

The renovation would be consistent with the city's plans for downtown revitalization, which are set to be approved at Monday's Dickinson City Commission meeting at City Hall.

"The property is within the renaissance zone, it's on the western edge of the renaissance zone and would qualify for the exemption if the city approves it," Josephson said. "It's not going to impact the surrounding zoning."

The plans as submitted to the city include office space and parking on the lower level and apartments above. NuVision Construction Group of Dickinson and Missoula, Mont., is the contractor on the project.

"There's probably three apartments only in this facility," said Quentin Kitzan of NuVision.

General Investment and NuVision are requesting the rezone because downtown commercial zoning allows for high-density residential, while general commercial does not.

"What they're looking at doing is office space and living quarters up above for the owners or possibly the management that works in the offices below," Kitzan said. "We were going to use the service area for indoor parking."

The building is valued at $422,000 and the renovation would cost less than $1.2 million, according to application documents.

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted to recommend approval the requests, which will go to the City Commission for final approval.

"We've been begging for these projects," said Earl Abrahamson, Planning and Zoning Commission president. "It's nice to see them come about and it's nice to see the city support them."

The issue will come before the Dickinson City Commission on Monday. The meeting begins at 4:30 p.m.

Calls to Sax Motor Co. and NuVision went unreturned Thursday and Friday.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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