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Strip mall

A strip mall, depicted here in 2015, located at the intersection of Fifth Street and East Bowen Avenue in Bismarck was to be razed to make room for the FiveSouth project, which was ultimately terminated in fall 2017. Now, the city is looking at its options to sell the property.

The Bowen Avenue Commercial Center, located just west of the Bismarck Event Center, has been put on the market, with Bismarck Industries Inc. having first dibs on the city-owned property via a right of first refusal.

In fall 2017, when the development agreement for the FiveSouth project was terminated, Bismarck Industries was granted a right of first refusal by the city to purchase the “block 67 property” in its entirety, should the city decide to sell it.

By a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Bismarck City Commission approved selling the strip mall, which has two tenants — Aerus Electrolux and Tobacco Row.

“I have gotten a lot of questions out in the community, visiting with different people, as far as what do we do with that piece of property,” said Commissioner Steve Marquardt. “Should the city own that and rent it out to other businesses? It’s kind of competition.”

According to City Administrator Keith Hunke, the city is having “difficulty” meeting revenue requirements to pay for the property’s expenses.

“We gave the right of first refusal to Bismarck Industries to give them some time to see if they could come up with a different configuration or different idea on how to develop that space,” Commissioner Nancy Guy said. “I certainly understand our concerns about revenues versus expenses, but I’m also concerned about pulling the rug out from under Bismarck Industries. I don’t know if they have any opportunity on the horizon or if they’re really pursuing it even.”

Bismarck Industries has 30 days to exercise its right of first refusal. 

In the event Bismarck Industries decides to exercise its right, two appraisals of fair market value must be provided by the company. The purchase price will be the average of the values determined by the two appraisers, and Bismarck Industries will have 10 days to make a decision — purchase at said price or decline.

“There isn’t an out for the city if they (Bismarck Industries) exercise the option. It’s theirs under the terms,” said City Attorney Jannelle Combs.

Marquardt said he’s not aware of any potential buyers, should Bismarck Industries elect not to exercise its right.

“We don’t know until we ask. I thought we should at least put it on the market and see if we get any hits for it, with the understanding that we know Bismarck Industries does have the right of first refusal,” he said.

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(Reach Cheryl McCormack at 701-250-8264 or cheryl.mccormack@bismarcktribune.com.)​

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General Assignment Reporter