A Grand Forks developer and eldercare mogul is one of a handful of people kicking the tires on the city-owned Corporate Centers.

Phil Gisi, a board member of the Edgewood Real Estate Investment Trust and the head of Edgewood Healthcare, might buy one or both of the centers via the “REIT” or a related company.

“I’m interested in them,” Gisi told the Herald. “But we haven’t really done anything.”

The centers were built in the aftermath of the Flood of 1997 and were valued at a combined $9.99 million in an appraisal completed last month. City leaders have planned to sell the buildings for years, and Mayor Brandon Bochenski campaigned in 2020 partly on following through with that plan.

Gisi said neither building would change dramatically if Edgewood buys it – retail spots on the first floor, offices above – and he would hope existing tenants stay put.

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“My assumption is there will need to be some remodeling, some improvements, obviously, depending on who the tenants are going to be,” he said. “My hope is that first floor would be retail still, but of course that’s kind of difficult these days. But we do have some people we’re talking to on the retail side on that first level.”

If the trust buys the buildings, some Edgewood Healthcare administrators might move their offices across DeMers Avenue to the centers, as well.

“We are one of the businesses we’re talking to,” Gisi chuckled.

The Herald asked city administrators for March 2021 correspondence between city employees and anyone – or any organization – who has expressed an interest in the centers. That yielded 470 pages worth of documents, most of which are existing lease agreements between the city and current center tenants, earlier appraisal documents and so on, but some of which are emails from people like Gisi inquiring about appraisals and other facets of a potential sale.

The Herald on Wednesday requested a similar batch of correspondence sent or received in April 2021.

Another name that pops up in the March correspondence supplied to the Herald is Sean McGarry, a grandson of Ralph Engelstad who, property records indicate, now lives in Las Vegas. McGarry spoke with Ryan Brooks, an interim city planner who’s leading the city’s sale efforts, earlier this year, and Brooks sent McGarry and his partners, Troy and Chase Kolebuck, hundreds of pages of information about the centers.

McGarry and Troy Kolebuck could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but Chase Kolebuck claimed they had no plans to buy either center.

“It’s not something we’re looking at,” Kolebuck said. He declined to say how the three were partners or what business in which they were partnered.

City staff working on or supervising the centers’ sale have either not known or been unwilling to say who other potential buyers are.

Brooks said that about six or eight people or institutions have asked for information about one or both centers, but he declined to name them. He indicated that there is no law prohibiting him from doing so.

“It has to do more with the privacy of the folks who are looking to purchase,” Brooks said. “It’s not my information to share. It would be theirs. From my perspective, those folks probably don’t want other people knowing that they’re interested in the sale. ... If we had some document that said, ‘here’s everybody,’ then we’d have to share that, as I understand it, but we have not done that. We don’t have a running list, per se, written down.”

He and other city staff are working to cross the t’s and dot the i’s on a process by which they’d sell the two centers. The most recent appraisal was completed in June, and the $9.99 million it estimated the centers to be worth is only slightly higher than the combined $9.57 million at which they were valued in a December 2019 appraisal. Legal agreements drawn up 20-plus years ago give the centers’ “anchor” tenants – Alerus Financial; Brady Martz & Associates; and the Camrud, Maddock, Olson, and Larson law firm – the right to buy their respective spaces.

“How do you divide up the common areas? What about the land that the building sits on that is not the actual tenant space but part of the building? So there’s just some of that kind of legal minutiae,” Meredith Richards, the city’s community development director, told the Herald. “It’s complicated.”

If and when city staff finalize that process, it will need to be approved by officials at the city’s Growth Fund Committee and, later, the Jobs Development Authority.