Committee to roll out beautification vision

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 15, 2001

For members of the First Impressions Committee, a makeover of Albert Lea is more than just a hazy idea.

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

For members of the First Impressions Committee, a makeover of Albert Lea is more than just a hazy idea.

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Thanks to some hard work this summer, the committee is ready to show Albert Lea some concrete plans for making the city more attractive to visitors and residents.

The committee will unveil a series of preliminary designs and sketches at a town hall meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at Riverland Community College. The meeting will feature the work of Jessica Arneson, a landscape architecture student from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Arneson has been working all summer as an intern on the beautification project, funded through a partnership with the committee, Greater Jobs, Inc., the Albert Lea city planning department and the Initiative Fund.

Arneson will give a presentation outlining her ideas for seven areas of the city, including the business development center at the Northaire Industrial Park; Water Street downtown; the Shell Rock River Channel; Fountain Lake Park; the Blazing Star trailheads; entry signage; and the East Main-South Broadway business loop.

The presentation is meant to spark public interest and provide a starting point for some beautification projects, Arneson said.

&uot;These are just my ideas that I’ve developed through some research and suggestions by others,&uot; she said.

&uot;Hopefully we can get a lot of people to come to the meeting, and the committee can gather some feedback.&uot;

Arneson has already presented her work to several Albert Lea service clubs, explaining her plans for improved landscaping, lighting, signage and other ways to make the city friendlier to pedestrians. So far, the response has been positive.

&uot;I think people generally agree that there are areas that could stand some improvement,&uot; Arneson said.

City Planner Bob Graham said Arneson’s work represents one vision of how the city could improve its appearance. But to realize the plans, the public will have to get much more involved, he said.

&uot;These are visionary options – concepts that are transferable to any part of the city,&uot; Graham said.

&uot;With some input from the public, the focus may shift to other projects. The committee could end up with a whole new set of priorities.&uot;

Though the city is willing to continue working as a partner, Graham said private funding and volunteer resources will be necessary to begin any of the projects. If people get involved, these projects could get off the ground, he said

&uot;What kind of changes do the people of Albert Lea want to see, if any? That’s what this whole exercise is about,&uot; Graham said.

The First Impressions Committee developed from the results of the Business Retention & Expansion survey, conducted by Greater Jobs last year.