City optimistic about chances for state grant

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2002

A $1.2 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development (DTED), which the city would use for public improvements on a two-block patch of downtown, isn’t guaranteed, but City Manager Paul Sparks is optimistic about the city’s chance &045; because the state agency asked Albert Lea to apply.

&uot;We feel the staff at DTED will look favorably on our application because they encouraged us to make the application,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;Can I promise you you’ll get the money? No. Do I feel good about it? Yes.&uot;

The city could use the money to improve and increase parking in the area around the Lea Center and Freeborn Bank buildings; alter alleys; change or improve landscaping; pay to bury power lines instead of having them run overhead; and possibly &uot;change the configuration of William Street,&uot; Sparks said.

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&uot;That would help a great deal in our efforts to redevelop these areas,&uot; Sparks said.

The city’s application will feature several elements that DTED considers important, including housing, redevelopment, and public and private infrastructure. Statewide, the department awards points to applications based on how well those kinds of elements are represented.

&uot;It’s a competitive process,&uot; Sparks said.

The city already owns the Freeborn Bank building on the corner of William and Broadway and is trying to buy the Hansen building to the east. The Lea Center building, on the other side of William, is also for sale, and the city is close to buying it and selling it to a redevelopment company with designs on turning most of it into apartments.

The city council agreed to apply for the grant Monday, and the city will submit the application by September, Sparks said.

If the city doesn’t get the grant, which would provide the money over a three-year period, it would have to scrap some of its plans for the area, Sparks said.