Deal will put apartments on empty lots

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2001

A Dodge Center man’s offer to buy several vacant residential lots from the city for $1 was met Monday with a warm response from council members.

Tuesday, June 26, 2001

A Dodge Center man’s offer to buy several vacant residential lots from the city for $1 was met Monday with a warm response from council members.

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Richard Roberts said he would like to build small apartment buildings, which, he pointed out to the council, would help ease the city’s housing shortage. He said once he gets the property from the city, he will not come back looking for more assistance.

&uot;Give me the green grass and I’ll develop it,&uot; Roberts told the council. &uot;That would be the city’s portion of the deal.&uot;

With private financing already in place, Roberts said he will begin developing the property by building at least two four-unit or six-unit complexes. He also requested that he retain a five-year option to buy other vacant lots on nearby Washington Avenue so he could build more units if the first two prove successful.

Each building would consist of two-bedroom apartments renting for about $600 per month, he said.

The three lots in question, located on the south end of Pearl Street at the corner of Mill Street, have been vacant since the city tore down the Allis Hotel and two adjacent homes in May 1988.

Councilor Mary Kron, who lives on Pearl Street less than a block from the vacant lots, said a handful of local children sled on the lots in the winter. Other neighborhood residents cross the lots as a shortcut to a nearby liquor store.

&uot;That’s about the extent of the activity over there. I have never heard about any interest in building anything until this,&uot; Kron said.

Roberts said he has extensive experience in developing rental properties. He owns about 40 single-family homes throughout the area including 15 in Austin and six in Albert Lea.

Roberts said he would like to begin his project as soon as possible. He can meet with his bank as early as next week, he said.

&uot;If this works as I expect it to, we will build as fast as we can fill the buildings,&uot; he said.

Councilor Ron Sorenson said apartments would be an ideal use for the property, adding that he didn’t remember any other serious interest for the property coming to the city in over a decade.

The council unanimously approved the offer in principle, and directed City Attorney Steve Schwab to draft an agreement with Roberts for final approval at the next council meeting.

According to realtor Ken Leland, an average vacant lot in Albert Lea with utilities, curb and gutter would probably sell for $5,000-10,000. But building rental units is an expensive proposition, he said.

&uot;I wouldn’t blame the city for pursuing the matter. This individual sounds like the kind of developer they’ve been looking for,&uot; Leland said.

In other council news:

The council approved a $75,000 tax-increment finance district

for utilities and water treatment improvements at Mrs. Gerry’s

Kitchen to help the business with its latest expansion. But impending

changes in the state’s property tax laws forced the council to

include an option for a deficiency payment in case the district

doesn’t generate enough revenue. Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen would be

responsible for the payment to ensure the city recouped its money.

TIF consultant Ed Tschida told the council that future districts

would probably require similar deficiency payments because property-tax

reforms would likely remove school districts from the local property

tax equation. Currently, the School District 241’s portion of

the property tax in Albert Lea is about 47 percent, he said.

&uot;It could mean significantly less revenue from these districts,&uot;

Tschida said.


The council finalized a development agreement for the Home

Depot site, clearing the way for construction to begin next month.

The council also approved a bid for $1.39 million to Sorenson

Brothers of Albert Lea for construction of sanitary sewer, water

main and a road work on Township Road 105 along the proposed

Home Depot site.