Ellen Huber: Railroad’s refusal to sell properties thwarts new business interests
Traffic counts are a major factor considered by retail and restaurant operators in selecting locations. The strongest count in Mandan, with adjacent property that is developed, or that can be developed, is along East Main Street as you enter and exit from Interstate 94. Average daily traffic is 19,600 vehicles.
Despite high traffic and visibility, the former Mandan Supply and Equipment buildings at 1121 East Main Street have been offered for sale for more than a year with a current asking price of $299,000. The hang-up is that the buildings sit on property owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The BNSF land lease is another $39,000 per year, and the agreement may be terminated with only 30 days notice. The terms of the lease tend to deter parties from investing in the buildings or from constructing new buildings on the property.
The situation is similar with the former McDonalds, now Ressler Chevrolet property, at 1005 East Main Street. The building is for sale for $165,000 or available for lease at $9 per square foot triple net. The land lease is another $15,450 per year through BNSF.
Other properties on the south side of Mandan’s Main Street remaining under railroad ownership include the Dakota Motor Sports location at 605 East Main Street and the Cass Clay distribution center at 701 West Main Street.
The city of Mandan and Bismarck Mandan Development Association have each asked BNSF to sell its East Main Street properties, or even the most easterly portion of the properties. The railroad has so far refused. One possibility suggested to BNSF would be to divide the 1121 E. Main property into more than one parcel for lease. That suggestion has also been refused. Even had that suggestion been successful, businesses interested in the property are worried about investing in buildings on land they don’t own.
It appears to be a problem that may not be resolved any time soon and meanwhile is having a detrimental effect on our community’s ability to redevelop and attract businesses to certain portions of Main Street. More reasonable lease rates and terms would certainly help.