Candidates offer their takes on Farmland site

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 5, 2002

Editor’s note: Each week, the Tribune will ask the candidates for mayor of Albert Lea a question, and their answers will be printed Mondays. The primary election, which will select two candidates to compete in the general election, is Sept. 10.

This week’s question: &uot;What should be put on the old Farmland site?&uot;

Jean Eaton:

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&uot;Build it and they will come.&uot; One of the cornerstones of my campaign is waterfront development of the Farmland site. The development of our waterfront treasure is a critical business retention and recruitment tool that will differentiate us from other communities and strengthen our quality of life. Minnesota Technology’s recent report states, &uot;Quality of life and cultural amenities are investments in communities trying to attract businesses as well as keeping people to survive.&uot; As mayor, I would initiate public dialog to develop a community vision for financing and developing this site. My personal vision includes a useable lake with natural habitat and abundant green space. The site could include a &uot;themed&uot; development with restaurants, shops, hotel/conference center, accessible dock, lock and dam, recreational rentals and other cultural amenities. Albert Lea then will begin to attract and retain the type of businesses and people who want to come, live, work and play!

Mark Anderson:

lt’s interesting to speculate about uses for the old Farmland site but we must remember that the city doesn’t own the site yet and, although unlikely, the company could decide to rebuild right there or use it for other purposes. Nevertheless, if the city becomes the owner of the site, it raises nice possibilities because of the proximity to Albert Lea Lake and the bike trail. I foresee interest in creating a route to connect the bike trail to paths that could be developed around Fountain Lake. The corner of Garfield and Main has already demonstrated that it is an attractive area for commercial businesses. Beyond that, I expect development would be of the mixed use variety, including commercial uses, housing and offices. It offers a good deal to developers and city taxpayers because city water and sewer services are already available.

Tony Trow:

My vision for the Farmland site is a hotel, civic center, retail shops, entertainment center, and marina with riverwalk between the interconnected lakes. But this is my vision. What do the people of Albert Lea want? For many years plans have been quietly hatched in the basement of City Hall with little input from the public. This must change if we are to build the town we want for ourselves and our children. I am calling for a new beginning which will start with planning sessions to develop a 5-year plan for our city. Within this plan will be many elements including, residential development, industrial development, commercial development, downtown renewal, lakes restoration, recreation, etc. After our people have spoken and a plan is in place, we must all find a role that each of us can play in achieving our plan. Let’s take charge of our future. If not now, when?

Don Mathison:

With the Blazing Star Bike Trail across the street, I think a good use for the property would be a sports and activity center. Since soccer has become so popular, I feel this would be a good location for an indoor soccer arena. Tournaments could be held there year-round. A motel could be built in the area, perhaps near Main Street. Other things, like a snack shop, souvenir gift shop, batting cage for ball players, volcano mountain miniature golf and an indoor golf driving range, could be included, making it useable all year. At the southeast end a nice restaurant could be built, with a nice view of the lake. These are some of the possibilities that would make good use of the property and could be accomplished within a couple of years.

George Marin:

This is a beautiful area with much potential! The first priority is plant demolition. The soonest the city can proceed is Dec. 1. The next priority is to gain control of the land. Then, comes the study period to see how much of the land is usable for redevelopment.

I feel &uot;family friendly&uot; waterfront development would definitely add to our city’s assets &045; a Colonel Albert Lea play park, open-air concert area, the bike trail running through to downtown, ice cream shops, marina, boat rentals, nice hotel with indoor water park, carousel, and local artists’ sculptures, to name a few ideas (I’m presently doing water park research). However, none of these ideas seem feasible without the cleanup of Albert Lea Lake. It seems a sensible starting point is to contract with an engineering firm for cost estimates on dredging. With that information in hand, we can proceed intelligently. This can be done!