People speak in favor of Broadway work

Published 9:24 am Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Albert Lea residents spoke out in favor of the Broadway streetscape and infrastructure project Monday, saying it is an investment in the future of the city.

During a public hearing in front of the Albert Lea City Council, downtown business owners and other residents said they think the project will add to the growth the downtown experienced this summer and enhance many of the activities taking place there.

“I really think with this project it will keep the downtown going in the right direction,” said resident Ken Petersen.

Email newsletter signup

The project in its entirety is estimated at about $4.08 million and calls for reconstruction of the street, utilities and sidewalks, along with other decorative elements such as street lighting, proposed plazas, bumpouts and a redevelopment of Fountain Lake Park.

The project is being proposed because of the age of the underground utilities and street. The existing sanitary sewer, watermain and storm sewer systems in Broadway are more than 80 years old and in need of replacement. The existing street was originally constructed in 1933 out of concrete and has been overlaid with blacktop in 1956, 1975 and 2002, according to city staff.

Though the City Council has not approved all the design elements of the project, it did vote on Monday to move forward with ordering the improvement and the preparation of final design plans. In the next 45 days, it will decide about each of the design elements.

“I think we need to continue that growth that we’re seeing, to continue the growth of Albert Lea,” said Prairie Wind Coffee owner Kirk Foley.

Tom Staker, part owner of Celebrations Party & Gifts, reminded the council that a major part of the project is to replace the infrastructure. He said he thinks that element has been lost in the last few months.

Steve Anderson, one of the owners of new bar 112 on Broadway, said he “wholeheartedly” supports the project, including all of the amenities. He said he thinks the cost of reconstruction would only be higher at a later time.

Robert Hoffman, who recently purchased a downtown building, said he did so because of the emphasis and improvements that are taking place in the downtown and because of the streetscape project.

“I think we are on an upward swing in downtown,” added Ryan Heath, who rents part of the Shoff building for his photography business.

He said he thinks the project will make downtown more attractive to people both in and out of Albert Lea.

Not all who spoke at the Monday meeting were in favor of the project, however.

Gladys Roberts of Country Tack Western Store, said she does not think this is the time for the project and noted that many businesses are having a rough time.

“I don’t think this is quite the time that we do this,” Roberts said.

She said it will be difficult for her to sell her business because of the assessments from the project.

Kathy Sabinish, owner of 228 S. Broadway, asked the council to listen to the arguments people are sharing, both positive and negative, before making any decisions.

She said, while she is in favor of the street and sidewalk replacement, she is concerned about the proposed bumpouts.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said a meeting likely will be scheduled in October for the council to consider the more detailed parts of the project.