SARTELL (WJON News) -- The city of Sartell is officially taking over ownership of the former paper mill site this week.

The city council began the purchase agreement process for the multiple AIM properties and 167 acres back in August.

Anita Archambeau has been working as a private consultant on the project since February. She says one of the first actions was a community survey where over 800 residents responded, along with 90 other stakeholders and community leaders.

She says overwhelmingly the preferred use for the site is a mixed-use development.

Boutique-type local retail stores and restaurants, office spaces, and perhaps some level of higher-density residential.

Archambeau says residents also want the property to have recreational opportunities that utilize the Mississippi River.

She says she's been busy creating a master plan or a concept plan and working with potential developers to make sure the designs are feasible.

You want to make sure that even the concept that we're looking at is something that is palatable to developers that might have an interest in the property.  So they are definitely part of the conversation right now.  Those conversations will eventually lead to what we hope will be a final project that is conceivable, can be implementable, and realistic for developers.

She says they are in the visioning stage right now and she'll be making a formal presentation to the city council next month. There will be some concept plans drawn up by early this fall which will be made available to the public in the form of open houses.

She says there will still need to be an environmental review of the land and the city will have to establish the necessary infrastructure. So, realistically, we're at least a few years away from breaking ground on any projects and probably 10 years away from full development.

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You can keep track of the progress on the city's website with a page called "Mill Site Development Project".

The explosion and fire at Verso Paper Mill happened over 11 years ago in May of 2012.

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