Fergus Falls residents rally to save historic building

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MPR file photo Dan Gunderson

A group trying to save the Regional Treatment Center in Fergus Falls hope 1,200 people show up on Saturday for an event designed to draw attention to efforts to save the historic building from the wrecking ball.

The event is called “Hug the RTC” and the idea is to ring the 1,600 foot long structure with people.

When it was built in the late 1800s the Kirkbride structure was considered a model of mental health treatment. In the 1930s it housed some 2,000 mentally ill residents, and employed hundreds of local workers.

The city of Fergus Falls has been trying for about a decade to find a developer to re-use the facility.

Tim LItt chairs a task force charged with finding a marketing firm to help sell the property to a developer. He says the group will recommend a firm to the city council on Monday evening. He hopes a renewed marketing effort will lead to a national search for interested developers for the project.

Over the years, several proposed re-developments fell through when developers couldn’t come up with money for the projects they envisioned.

Litt says redeveloping the massive structure is a challenge because of it’s size and the slow economy.

The state will pay the cost of demolishing the facility if a developer can’t be found. Demolition is estimated to cost several million dollars.

The agreement with the state was recently amended to extend the deadline for demolishing the facility. Litt says under the current agreement, demolition must be complete by December, 2014 if the city can’t find a developer for the property.

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