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Cottage Grove hopes for ace in pocket at developer conference in Las Vegas

No news has been bad news on the commercial real estate front for officials in Cottage Grove. But Mayor Myron Bailey said recently he likes the odds of a breakthrough in efforts to redevelop a pair of prime commercial properties ahead of a city economic development trip to a nationwide retail convention in Las Vegas.

With a contingent of city officials set to make Cottage Grove's second consecutive appearance at the International Council of Shopping Centers' largest annual convention -- one that draws hundreds of cities, commercial real estate developers and retailers looking to make a match -- Bailey said last week he understands there to be serious interest from developers in both the historic Cottage View Drive-In movie theater site and the vacant Home Depot property.

That has the mayor -- who campaigned in 2008 stressing the need to change the city's approach to seeking commercial development -- feeling positive before officials head to the three-day convention in Sin City beginning May 22.

"I'm very confident," Bailey said, "because I think by the time we even get there we'll have two proposed developments to show we're turning the corner."

No developer has come forward publicly with a development plan for either site.

City officials have been desperate to see both sites redeveloped as commercial growth in Cottage Grove has stagnated.

Unlike last year, though, Bailey said he doesn't expect to aggressively shop the drive-in property at the Las Vegas convention. He said he is confident officials can take with them to Las Vegas evidence of serious interest in Cottage Grove. That's something officials hope will be contagious as they meet with dozens of developers, restaurants and retailers.

"I'm aware that there's an interested end-user for the drive-in site," Bailey said, "and it sounds like discussions are going well."

However, drive-in owner Gerry Herringer, who has said he is anxious to see the acreage that the local landmark sits on sold, tempered that assessment in an interview. He equated the interest from developers in the site to "tire-kicking" and said no deal was imminent.

Herringer, whose Columbia Heights-based Herringer Companies has owned the theater since it opened in 1966, said "I've got nothing," in terms of an offer from a developer or end-user for the site. But he reiterated that he believes the theater, which opened for the season April 22, is fated to disappear.

"I've said this before: I think [the Cottage View Drive-In's] time has come and it's really outlived its functionality," Herringer said. "It's going to go. I just don't know when it's going to go."

City officials earlier this year changed their stance on the idea of developing the more than 90-acre Cottage View site piece-by-piece, as opposed to in one fell swoop as the city had previously preferred. Bailey said developer interest in a portion of the site near Highway 61 and Keats Avenue fits in the city's new, broadened vision for the property.