Brookings voters back development of Marketplace land

New Aldi grocery store might be one of tenants after 1,255 vote 'yes' while 708 vote 'no' in referendum

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BROOKINGS — With more than 500 votes to spare, Brookings voters opted on Tuesday to support the City Council’s decision to sell 10 acres of Brookings Marketplace land to Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies for development, possibly including an Aldi grocery store.

Voter turnout added up to 1,963. Of those, 1,255 voted “yes” on the referendum while 708 voted “no.” City Clerk Bonnie Foster characterized turnout as average, with the city having 13,018 registered voters as of January 2023. The official vote canvass will take place at 2 p.m. Friday in the Council chambers at the Brookings City & County Government Center, 520 Third St. 

“When the petition drive for the referendum began, Ryan Companies suspended its work on the Marketplace. With the vote yes, the company plans to resume its efforts as quickly as possible,” City Manager Paul Briseno told the Brookings Register. “That will include returning to Planning Commission and City Council to seek approval on the revised plan. Patrick Daly, vice president of development for Ryan Companies, told the Council in January that the goal is to commence construction yet this year so that buildings can be opened for business 12 to 18 months later.”

Jacob Mills, vice president of Mills Development and a leading voice in the “no” camp, shared his thoughts as well. 

“I believe that this has been important community discussion and engagement,” he noted, adding that, “I hope moving forward the City Council recognizes the public frustration over their lack of transparency on this land deal, and the importance of their role to have public discussion and not be making private deals behind closed doors in the future.”

City Councilor Wayne Avery also spoke out, saying that, among other things, he’s proud of the council’s work to advance the Marketplace project.

“I am grateful to the voters who took the time to study the issues and vote in the special election. The yes vote affirms the decision of the City Council and council’s authority to make decisions on behalf of the citizens of Brookings,” Avery said. “I am proud of the work the City Council has done to advance the Marketplace project, and the positive messaging used to support the council’s efforts. I look forward to future ground breaking events and making progress on a variety of issues undertaken by the council.”

The referendum on the City Council’s decision to sell the front 10 acres of Marketplace land to Ryan Companies came after a petition containing 1,056 signatures was filed with the city. The developer is negotiating with Aldi, and has contacts with other businesses, to build on the four sites it plans to initially develop. The land in question is just east of Sixth Street’s interchange with Interstate 29, on the north side of the street. 

The 10-acre deal reached in November is an amended version of the initial agreement with Ryan in February 2023 that involved 18.53 acres of the 26-acre Marketplace land.

In earlier stories in the Register, Daly has said that the reduced, 10-acre purchase remains just the first phase of the overall project, and that Ryan Companies still has plans to develop all 18.53 acres of the land.

“Please look at this project as an initial phase being the first of multiple phases, not as us just buying 10 acres and then not proceeding with developing the balance of it,” he said.

— Contact Mondell Keck at mkeck@brookingsregister.com.