Hy-Vee Gas plans to expand

Published 9:40 am Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hy-Vee officials have announced plans to expand their convenience store on the north end of Bridge Avenue about a block away from where a new Kwik Trip gas station is slated be built.

John Brehm, Hy-Vee director of site planning, said the company plans to expand the existing 2,500-square-foot Hy-Vee Gas convenience store into one that is 4,300 square feet. In the process, the building will be modernized. The number of gas pumps will remain the same.

Brehm and two other company representatives presented preliminary plans for the project to Freeborn County commissioners and other Albert Lea city and economic development officials Tuesday during a workshop.

Email newsletter signup

The Hy-Vee representatives said they plan to acquire property immediately to the south of their current property, and the building and fuel pumps would be shifted south.

Brehm and Michael Smith, assistant vice president of real estate and sustainability for the company, said it was premature to release an estimated price tag for the project. They also did not have a construction timeline but noted the project would most likely take place in spring of 2013.

The discussion comes as commissioners and members of the Albert Lea City Council are reviewing the traffic patterns and safety on Bridge Avenue. The street’s infrastructure needs to be replaced and officials are determining whether to make changes to the road. A study from SRF Consulting Group out of Minneapolis, which cost about $17,000, is slated to be returned this week covering many of these issues.

At the same time, Kwik Trip Inc. is also attempting to move forward with plans for a new $5 million gas station, south of the existing Hy-Vee Gas, which will include both diesel and unleaded fuel. Commissioners are considering whether to allow a right turn lane into the Kwik Trip property, which would add one access point on Bridge Avenue.

Though Hy-Vee Gas is not proposing any added access points, it is asking to change where its access would be located.

With the move of the store a little to the south, Hy-Vee hopes to have one access point to line up directly with the Hy-Vee grocery store exit across Bridge Avenue near Applebee’s. Store Manager Al Weisert said that would be easier for people who have shopped at the grocery store to cross Bridge Avenue directly and go into Hy-Vee Gas with coupons to purchase gas.


Plaza Street

Discussion also took place about two options for a potential realignment of Plaza Street west of Bridge Avenue.

Freeborn County Engineer Sue Miller said Plaza Street in its current location sometimes gets mistaken as an Interstate 90 on-ramp.

Brehm said the company would be willing to put some of its land toward realigning it if the road were to be brought south to line up with Plaza Street to the east of Bridge Avenue.

A second option for Plaza Street is to wind it back behind Hy-Vee Gas and Arby’s where it would connect with Hi-Tec Avenue and Sykes Street.

Albert Lea City Engineer Steven Jahnke said to reroute Plaza Street to become a backage road would cost somewhere between $400,000 and $600,000, and to realign it closer to its existing route would cost less.

Hy-Vee officials appeared to be OK with either option, and the road would not have to be completed before either the Hy-Vee or Kwik Trip project could proceed.


Sykes Street intersection

There is also a question of whether to install a traffic signal at the intersection of Sykes Street and Bridge Avenue. Sykes Street runs between Arby’s and the anticipated new Kwik Trip store.

Miller said the number of cars coming through the intersection does not meet signal warrants to receive state or federal gas tax dollars to install, but the traffic signal could be paid for with local money or by the developer. The traffic signals could cost between $275,000 and $350,000.

“The problem with Bridge Avenue that I’ve concluded is not to get off of it,” Board Chairman Dan Belshan said. “It’s getting back onto it.”

Belshan said he thinks Sykes Street is a logical place for a traffic light.

Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Dan Dorman said there might be some way to utilize TIF funds or abatements in coming up with the money for the traffic light.

City and county officials plan to meet within the next few weeks to discuss the plans.

The commissioners agreed to delay their vote on the Kwik Trip right turn lane until after the combined city and county meeting.