By Lauren Donovan (Bismarck Tribune)
EXIT 59, DICKINSON, N.D. — Dickinson’s Exit 59 is about to become a major point of departure for the Queen City.
Menards, a regional home improvement center, is opening its biggest store ever in a city that not too many years ago was making a precipitous slide right off the retail map.
The 202,000-square-foot Menards on the north side of Interstate 94 will help reverse that slide. A retail flagship, it can tug a whole lot of other boats in its wake.
Jim Roers, owner of Roers Development, the company that developed the site in what used to be softly rolling cropland and prairie, said interest in Dickinson has exploded and it’s now recognized nationally as a top-three go-to city for development along with Bismarck and Fargo.
Roers and Dickinson officials attended a soft opening Monday to inhale the store’s brand new smell and celebrate this major notch in the community’s retail and commercial belt.
Store employees wearing the store’s signature blue had a pep rally to get ready for a wave of customers in a store that was virtually an empty shell three weeks ago.
“What are we gonna do?” the manager yelled. “Sell, sell, sell!” they yelled back.
Some 100 of the store’s employees moved from 23 other Menards stores and many live in a new apartment complex in the same development, manager Mark Kerr said.
This phase of Roers’ West Ridge will also include a new 50,000-square-foot SpartanNash grocery store, an eight-plex cinema, strip mall, financial centers, three hotels, and four apartment complexes.
“It’s a very special project, very significant,” Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson said.
Along with jet air service and expanded medical services, strong retail gives people what they need to be fully served in their own community, he said.
The $300 million investment on Dickinson’s west side is an order of magnitude that tips the weight of investment growth that direction.
“This is a huge first step toward the revitalization of Dickinson as a retail center,” Roers said Monday. “Dickinson had lost its place in the region. No one (investors) would show up,” he said.
Roers is already looking further west to the next major point of departure for Dickinson. That would be Exit 56, which doesn’t yet exist, but will once the state Department of Transportation opens bids next month and starts construction on the off-ramp project.
That new exit will also accommodate a bypass around the west side of Dickinson, and route trucks to the Bakken Oil Express railport and to the new MDU refinery.
Development at Exit 56 will include one of the largest truck stop operations in North Dakota, restaurants, and hotels in a more industrial-type setting, said Roers’ vice president of development Larry Nygard.
Nygard said construction on
Exit 56 projects will begin this year for openings in 2015.
It’s all part of a breakneck pace of development in one of the fast-growing cities in the oil patch.
“This is the year of retail,” Dickinson city administrator Shawn Kessel said.
A development across the interstate on Exit 59 will add a new Cash Wise grocery, other brand stores and yet another development north of Roers’ will bring more housing, office and retail.
“There will be between 1 million and 1.5 million square feet of retail among (the three developments),” Kessel said. Those stores and offices will require 1,200 employees.
“Last year was the year of the residential, but you need ‘noses’ in a community to justify the retail,” he said.
Monday, after a ceremonial cutting of a 2x4, Menards employees were there to help the store’s first customers who rolled carts around and picked up a few things.
Dickinson resident Bob Hlibichuk said what he saw looked “awesome.”
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this. It’s a one-stop shop,” he said.
Reach reporter Lauren Donovan at 701-220-5511 or