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Big Changes Slated For Plaza

POSTED October 27, 2009 3:57 p.m.

A major facelift is scheduled for the plaza on the north end of town that houses the Costless Market, Sears, Oakdale Cinema and Ultimate Furniture, to name a few of the business currently taking up residence, and according to project facilitator and developer Richard Murdoch, the changes are going to bring a much-needed overhaul to the aging plaza.

The property, owned by the DeWares Group and managed by South Star PM, has been the subject of debate on how to best utilize the real estate that boasts river property yet to this date has not been able to successfully market to the best of its ability due to restrictions created by the easement owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. The area has long been blighted by rampant undergrowth and transient traffic. Recently, a clean-up of the river bed removed much of the dangerous trash littering the banks but the undergrowth remained a problem.

Until some creative thinking happened that presented a solution that was not only safe, but also green, and agreeable to the Army Corps.

The solution: goats.

And lots of them.

As one part of a greater whole, approximately 20 goats were brought in to start chewing down the vegetation along the four-acre swath of land along the riverbank that to this point have created an eyesore and a fuel hazard. A fence was erected to keep the goats in and people out. A caretaker for the goats was also hired to ensure that no one tries to take off with the goats and so far, the solution is working quite well. So well, Murdoch said, deals have already been struck to lease 100 more goats to speed up the process.

“It’s working,” Murdoch said of the goats. “Once they’ve done their job we can get in there and clean up the garbage left behind. We’d like to make it so there’s a view of the river. We want to make it an asset instead of a liability.”

That’s just part of the plan. Another part of the plan, which will begin phase one in about two weeks is the resurfacing of the plaza. Plans to build condos near the plaza started about two years ago but stalled when the banking industry hit the brakes on large equity lines of credit. Now the plan is back in action and Murdoch, who will be the developer and general contractor as well as the facility manager in charge of maintenance and landscaping, is pleased to see the wheels of progress turning again.

“I’m excited,” Murdoch said. “Finally, after two years we’re getting to see some progress. People will say there’s not a nicer shopping plaza in Oakdale aesthetically.”

Going with the same architect who transformed the space formerly housing the debilitated Oberti building on West F Street where the new Little Ceasar’s Pizza is going in, the new plaza will have an upscale feel to it.

“It will be pretty high-end and become prime property,” Murdoch shared. “I wanted it to look like a brand new shopping center.”

The first phase will include resurfacing of the business fronts of Sears and the Hope Chest. All businesses will remain open during the remodel and safety precautions will be taken while construction is ongoing.

The big picture will involve the construction of 28 homes, cleaning of the river, resurfacing the plaza and the addition of a stoplight at the Yosemite Avenue entrance.

According to Murdoch, the city and the property owner will split the cost of the stoplight.

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