Alex Schlee | Staff Writer | 11-20-2012
Next to the Paul Bunyan Drive bridge over the stream connecting lakes Irving and Bemidji, a vacant building stands; its parking lot is used for farmers’ markets now more than customer parking. This building, formerly a Pamida store, has stood vacant since January, and the discussion of how to best use it is underway.
Currently, there is not much going on in the discussion. Negotiations on how to use the vacant space have been going for the better part of the last year, but nothing has been decided yet. No timeline has been established for when a decision is to be reached.
In April, The Northern Student reported on the fate of the empty business, the history behind it and how that could affect who gets use of the land. In 1988, the excavation for Pamida’s foundations revealed the graves of 22 Native Americans. The remains discovered have been estimated to be nearly 10,000 years old. Despite the presence of ancient Native American artifacts and burial sites on the property, the construction continued and the old bones were laid to rest elsewhere.
Upon Pamida’s closing, a debate rose anew regarding what should be done with the property. Several options have become popular. A monument or park on the site dedicated to its spiritual significance has been proposed by the Native American community around Bemidji.
Another idea that has been entertained has been to convert the former store to a new housing for Bemidji’s Headwaters Science Center, which has had its eyes on the larger space since Pamida’s closing. Recently, the Science Center held a feasibility committee discussing the possibility of moving to a new location. The committee discussed things like costs, maintenance and other benefits of moving.
“We determined it was a good option,” said Susan Joy, director of the Science Center. “Of course, our location should be irrelevant to what we do.”
The idea of installing a new store has also been brought up, though what store could possibly be coming to town has not yet been decided.
Currently, the land and the building that stands on it are owned by David Bolger, a businessman residing in Ridgewood, N.J. In April, the word was that there was still a 10-year lease on the property, only two of which had passed since it was renewed. Recently, there has been unconfirmed talk that the lease may have been shortened, but no parties involved in the negotiations have comments on the lease or its duration. It seems the negotiation phase in deciding the fate of the old Pamida building is likely to continue for quite some time.