Broadway loan program becomes grant source

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, February 26, 2011

Building owners on Broadway Avenue in downtown Albert Lea may soon have an extra incentive to renovate the facades of their buildings.

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday is scheduled to vote on implementing a new grant program, which involves a 50/50 match up to $50,000 for approved building projects.

City officials hope the program will jump-start renovations in the downtown.

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Called the Broadway Ridge Renewal Grant Fund, the program replaces a loan program already in place, which was implemented in 2007.

City Manager Pat McGarvey said no one applied for the loan program, so now the council is considering changing it to a flat-out matching grant.

There is $193,000 currently in the fund — $140,000 from the city, $45,000 from Freeborn County and the remainder from interest. It is unclear if or how the fund will be replenished once it is used.

To apply for the grant assistance, people must compile project plans and cost estimates and get the plans approved. The Albert Lea Port Authority will review the projects and vote whether to approve a project agreement prepared by the city attorney as well as an easement to the Port Authority.

The applicant must prove funding for the private portion of the project.

Once the project is approved by the Port Authority, city staff in the Inspection Department, city planning and the city manager’s office will follow up to make sure the project is completed as the plans outlined.

The number of projects that could be completed depends on the size of the projects.

During the council’s workshop Thursday, a few councilors asked if the program would only include downtown Broadway Avenue building owners or if other people from side streets would be included.

Other councilors said they thought there might be a bigger impact on promoting downtown revitalization if the projects were within a closer vicinity, probably north of Main Street on Broadway Avenue.