Letter regarding Stonewall Bar and Grill

Dear friends, neighbors and community members of Jasper,

As a community organizer that has spent the last 5 years raising a quarter of a million dollars invested into rehab planning for Jasper’s historic buildings, giving thousands of hours of volunteer effort each year, along with six board members, two dozen volunteers, and over 300 donors, it’s disappointing to continue hearing city leaders prioritizing the demolition of historic buildings as a first course of action. This is especially concerning considering virtually all the economic research says demolition of these buildings would be a terrible waste of money. Many have no experience with historic preservation, and make assumptions about the cost based on myths. If repair bids are obtained, they are almost never from companies trained in preservation rehab trades, so the estimates are much higher than necessary. While it looks cheapest in the short term, spending tax dollars on demolition wipes out the opportunity Jasper has to reap much bigger future rewards by investing that same amount into repair.
Let’s do some math. The city is proposing to spend about $75,000 in tax dollars demolishing a historic Sioux Quartzite building, the Stonewall Bar, (based on our demo estimate for Bauman Hall, very similar in size and construction). Stonewall Bar has been deemed safe to occupy, and the report said it will be safe for another 1-2 years in its current condition. It does NOT need to be demolished now. As reported in the Pipestone Star, the cost to stabilize the facade is about $7,500, and the repairs will be around $30,000. Why would we jump to spend double that to demolish?
Financial data from Preservation Resources, Inc and the National Register shows that these buildings can be rehabbed for between $70-95/ sq. ft,, far less than new construction, using conservative rehab techniques and contractors trained in preservation trades. This can be achieved by working together to source funding, like the $12 million given away in MN Historical Society Legacy Grants each year, along with things like low interest community development loans, community savings accounts and the Historic Tax Credit.
Not only is the initial cost of rehab less than new construction, the long term return is far better because a renovated historic building has been found to last EIGHTY TO ONE HUNDRED YEARS, compared to only 30-40 years for new construction.

We know this is possible because we have already proven a return on our own investment in Bauman Hall.
After buying Bauman Hall in 2018 for $10,000, we repaired the HVAC and plumbing.
We immediately turned that investment into a $10,000 MNHS grant in 2019 for a Conditions Assessment to determine repair needs and costs. We turned that into a $53,100 grant in 2020 to draw up a shoring plan to stabilize it, and blueprints and specifications to fix the wall. And finally, this month we submitted a grant request for $173,100 to complete the wall repair starting January 2022. If approved, we will have turned a $10,000 initial investment into $236,200 in just 2.5 years, and have a building that could be leased out as early as next fall, with nothing but a lot of volunteer time, and community members and visitors attending fundraisers and donating money to help us leverage it. A one-of-a-kind quartzite building that could easily house multiple kinds of businesses, and will no doubt appraise for well over a million dollars following renovation, and will continue to generate jobs, tax revenue, and income yearly, saved in 3 years of work.

Investing in historic property is one of the most powerful tools in local economic development, job creation, and stimulation of entrepreneurship that any community has, according to 40+ years of research by PlaceEconomics. On average, for every $1 million invested in historic rehab vs new construction, $120,000 more stays in the local economy, and it creates 5-9 more construction jobs (rehab work is around 70% labor, vs. 40% of new construction). Those investments create 4-7 new other jobs in the community, local household incomes go up $107,000 and retail sales increase $108,000 more than with new construction. Each new local job created has wages that will be recycled SEVEN TIMES in the local economy. 75% of economic benefits remain local, and these impacts continue to grow over time. This is also an opportunity to attract investment dollars via the 20% Federal Historic Tax Credit, that can be stacked onto the 20% MN Historic Tax credit, providing developers and investors a 40% dollar-for-dollar reduction of federal income tax liability, which has also been found to in MN to generate a $16 return per dollar invested in the rehab project. That would be a $3.75 million return on the $236,000 investment we have done for Bauman Hall, if it were using HTC investors.  In Minnesota, every $1 dollar invested in these kinds of projects creates another $15 in private investment in the community. That can be done for the Stonewall Bar building as well.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation has also found that investing in historic preservation creates a greater return in tourism dollars. Visitors to historic sites stay an extra 2-3 days, and spend an extra $600 on average, compared to other visitors. With 70,000 annual visitors to the Pipestone National Monument, Jasper has the potential to capitalize on that existing market.  In South Dakota, $1 Million invested in preservation work creates 17 more jobs than $1 million invested in agriculture production. Just imagine how much impact investing a few million dollars of GRANT FUNDS will have when you multiply that impact on community wealth, tourism and jobs created, year after year, as we work on restoring these assets.
Small towns can’t afford to NOT celebrate every asset they have. These are not liabilities. These are assets, and they are the tools we leverage for the future of Jasper. Let’s work together and use patience, clever investment and community collaboration, using the economic research available to find the greater long- term solutions instead of the rash leap to “demolition first”, for a building that has been deemed still structurally sound, and is also eligible for the same grants as we got for Bauman Hall.

How can you help?
1- The City of Jasper will be discussing the Stonewall Bar demolition plans at the Council meeting which was rescheduled for Tuesday September 21st at 7pm.
EDIT to ADD: The future of this building may be discussed at the Council Meeting on Tuesday October 12 at 7pm, when the city will close their meeting to discuss the transfer of the empty bowling alley lot to the owner of the Stonewall Bar. At this meeting the council will also discuss their intent to proposals to purchase the old variety store and hardware store buildings in order to demolish them as well. 

These meetings are public. Please come and stand in support of saving these buildings.

2- If you cannot attend, you can send your letter to oppose the demolition to the city:
[email protected]
Or to us: [email protected]
Send a letter to the Pipestone County Star at: [email protected]
3- You can donate to our Community Savings fund we are creating in order to raise money for the temporary stabilization of buildings like the Stonewall Bar, and a future grant program to help owners make repairs so this does not happen again. (Same program the City of Pipestone has). We can accept donations on our website www.reclaimcommunity.org or at our secure Paypal link www.paypal.me/reclaimcommunitymn

If each person on our Donor list, and each person in the city donated JUST $25, we would have $20,000 to start this fund, and matching grants are available to us. This is possible, with your support. Telling the story of Jasper Quartzite to visitors will create a new attraction and new economic growth for Jasper. Help us keep the story alive.  Together we can do powerful things.

Elicia Kortus

President, Reclaim Community
On behalf of the board and 300+ supporters.
Board: Jason Madtson, Terry Skyberg, Randy Larson, Kristie Weinkauf, Jon Hoyme, Jason Klumper

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