Streetscape cost: $4 million

Published 10:01 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

While some questions appeared to be getting resolved Monday about the potential redesign of Albert Lea’s downtown, there were still concerns evident about the proposed $4 million price tag.

During a public meeting Monday at City Hall, about 50 people gathered to hear updates about the project from consultant firm Bolton & Menk of Ames, Iowa, and to voice concerns.

The plan, known by many as the streetscape project, calls for replacing deteriorating utilities underneath Broadway Avenue — from Main Street to Fountain Street. It also calls for paving, replacing the sidewalks with wider ones, adding pedestrian plazas and revamping Fountain Lake Park, among other improvements.

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Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said though the costs have not yet been broken down for the project, it would incorporate a combination of different funding options.

The street and water improvements would come from the water and sewer fund, and assessments would be given to property owners for the street and sidewalk reconstruction. The city has also received $1 million from the state in bonding dollars, and there would be a portion that would come through property taxes. The city is also approaching the Shell Rock River Watershed to see if they will contribute toward the storm water designs.

Adams said he planned to have more specific breakdowns of costs later this week. Replacing the infrastructure beneath the street is necessary about every 75 years but the timing provides an opportunity for giving Broadway a new look.

Albert Lea mayoral candidates John Severtson and Keith Porter Sr. voiced concern over the project.

Severtson said while he supports replacing the deteriorating infrastructure underneath Broadway Avenue, he does not support some of the extra amenities that are planned.

One of those amenities is called a bumpout sidewalk, which the project calls for at each intersection downtown.

Landscape architect Jim Harbaugh with Bolton & Menk said the bumpouts are safer for pedestrians and give pedestrians additional space at intersections.

A few people at the Monday forum said they think the bumpouts make the street seem too narrow, though the actual traffic lane would remain the same width and parking would not be affected.

One person questioned whether the firm had done a survey of communities following the installation of bumpouts.

Other questions surfaced regarding street lighting and potential pavers that could be used in the sidewalk.

Harbaugh said the project calls for taking out the traffic signals at the intersections of Broadway Avenue with Clark and William streets and turning them into a four-way stop.

While a few people were questioning these parts of the project, a few others voiced support for the project, stating residents need to look beyond themselves and think about the future generations.

“I don’t care what age you are; you need to realize we need to improve our community,” said resident Nancy Rosenberg. “We need more businesses downtown.”

Frames-R-Us owner Kathy Sabinish said frivolous things have been cut out of the proposal and she is beginning to support it more.

Bolton & Menk has been paid between $70,000 to $90,000 for developing the plan.

City staff and the consultant plan to meet one-on-one with the property and business owners downtown the week of July 30, and then the week of Aug. 27 a neighborhood meeting will be held.

A public hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 10, with the final design phase to follow for the rest of this year.

In February and March, the council is slated to take bids for the project and award the contract. Construction would begin in April or May and last through October or November.


Preliminary cost estimates

• Basic street and surface improvements on Broadway Avenue from Main Street to Fountain Street: $1.76 million

• Amenities including street lighting: $870,000
• Sanitary sewer, water main and storm sewer improvements: $750,000
• William Street pedestrian plaza: $190,000
• Water Street pedestrian plaza: $160,000
• Fountain Lake Park improvements: $350,000
Total estimated costs: $4.08 million