The Cook County Real Estate Fund moves forward with first two development projects
Kalli Hawkins

The Cook County Real Estate Fund moves forward with first two development projects

A vacant lot west of town will be the future location of a new commercial and residential development by the Cook County Real Estate Fund. 

The 3-acre lot immediately east of Harbor Light along Highway 61 in Grand Marais was purchased this spring by the Cook County Real Estate Fund. 

In addition, the Cook County Real Estate Fund is in the final stages of purchasing Birchbark Gifts located on 1st Avenue West behind Joynes Department Store. 

A group of community members announced the formation of a new organization, the Cook County Real Estate Group, during the winter of 2022. Less than six months ago. WTIP touched base with the Cook County Real Estate Fund after the winter announcement

The newly formed Cook County Real Estate Fund intends to pool resources and expertise to propel development projects in Cook County forward. 

Steve Surbaugh, one of the organization’s members, spoke with WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins to provide an update on the first two projects the Real Estate group will spearhead. 

Surbaugh said the first project, the vacant lot located in the commercial zoning district, is currently in the planning stages. ”All of the three scenarios that we’re looking at, for that property at the moment, incorporate some version of housing, and that will be market rate, rental housing, so not for sale,” Surbaugh said. 

He said the project will be, “Apartments of a mixed size, depending on what the market is, when we actually go to construction, (and) what construction costs are.”

The Economic Development Authority (EDA) recently released a Comprehensive Housing Needs Analysis that will provide insights to developers for the community’s housing needs. 

Surbaugh said the organization is assessing the findings of the housing study. He said, “We’re hoping to be part of the answer for that. But we’re certainly not going to be all of the answer.”

Two Cook County Real Estate Fund members, Surbaugh and Howard Hedstrom serve on the EDA board. 

While there is a long road ahead for the Real Estate group, they anticipate breaking ground during the next construction season, in the summer of 2023. 

Even before Cook County Real Estate Fund had finalized the paperwork, Surbaugh shared plans to renovate the Birchbark Gifts building in downtown Grand Marais. 

“Our hope is to take that building, do a little bit of rehabilitation to it, and then split it up into two retail spaces on the street side. And then in the back of the building, create some shared office spaces,” Surbaugh said. 

The organization intends to rent the individual office spaces. Surbaugh shares that they have already received interest from community members to rent the anticipated office spaces. 

“The hope for that is, hopefully, this winter, and we can line up all the contractors to kind of get that space up and running by hopefully next spring-summer,” said Surbaugh.

The Cook County Real Estate Fund, is a partnership between local investors and Revocity, a Northfield, Minn. company that works with rural communities in the upper Midwest. Surbaugh shares that the Real Estate group raises money from local investors and Revocity partners with their money. 

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Steve Surbaugh, a Cook County Real Estate Fund member, for an update on projects. Audio from the interview is below.