City begins planning future of Farmland site

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 29, 2002

“Family Destination Center” is a key concept for redevelopment of the old Farmland plant, Albert Lea City Planner Bob Graham said.

In a workshop meeting of the City Planning Commission Thursday, Graham presented a preliminary scheme for the 25-acre northern portion of the site, where the buildings destroyed in the July fire currently stand.

The scheme shows three structures: a tall one with a tower in the middle, and two lower structures with a classic appearance.

Email newsletter signup

Graham said they could be a hotel and restaurants with a convention facility. At the center of the preliminary site plan, a glass-covered facility might be constructed for some kinds of sports activities, such as indoor ice-skating.

The city considered, but dismissed, an idea to develop the site for industrial purposes. The location of the site at the gateway of downtown and abundant space in other industrial parks in the city influenced the city’s decision, Graham said.

“This is just one of thousands of possibilities,” Graham emphasized. “What we want is to generate some interest and vision among people.”

Specifics such as the size of the facility are undecided. But if a hotel is included, planners will have to come up with something that can lure people from outside the community to Albert Lea.

“It’s a gamble,” said Graham. “Are we in a location that can attract people from Minneapolis and Des Moines?”

The second phase of redevelopment will include Albert Lea Lake shoreline area, which has the potential to change the waterfront into a major recreational zone.

Andy Henschel, County Environmental Services, asked if the city could alter the route of Front Street to the north so that there would be enough space for developing the waterfront area.

The county is working on establishing an Albert Lea Lake management plan. The draft of the plan designates the west portion of the lake as a recreational zone.

Extensive dredging using a grant from the Army Corps of Engineers has been proposed in that section. Henschel said the city and county should coordinate the implementation of the lake management plan.

Another attraction could be an extended bike trail. The Blazing Star Trail that will eventually run from Albert Lea and Austin starts just east of the Farmland site. Graham said they could connect the Blazing Star to the city trail system through the redevelopment site.

The city also is checking into the feasibility of installing locks in the Channel River so that boats can move between Albert Lea Lake and Fountain Lake.