Sarah Stultz: Help Albert Lea’s downtown win some money

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.

Albert Lea’s downtown has always been one of my favorite parts of the community, so you can imagine how pleased I was to find out that it was in the running for some money in an America’s Main Street contest.

The contest celebrates the important role that the country’s main streets play in the long-term success of communities. If awarded, Albert Lea could receive $25,000 in cash and related prizes to help further revitalize the area. Smaller prizes are also available.

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I first gained an interest in the downtown while looking through some of the upper levels of the buildings for a story several years ago. It was a story about the potential in these upper floors.

It was as if some of the buildings were stuck back in time and had been left sitting empty. Others had been renovated and restored back to their historical prime.

Working on that story uncovered a long-shot dream of mine to someday own a building downtown. I don’t know yet what I would do with that building, but it is exciting thinking about the prospect.

Since I wrote that story, I have watched with excitement to see many downtown buildings get renovated, and some of those upper floors have been put back in use.

I have taken multiple tours during my time at the Tribune of the Freeborn National Bank building and Jacobson Apartments, and I eagerly await the day when those buildings will be renovated.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Albert Lea’s downtown is one of the largest — if not the largest — intact historic district in the state, and it is at the heart of our city.

According to Albert Lea’s nomination for the contest, the Minnesota Historical Society and National Park Service consider downtown Albert Lea to be an excellent example of a historic commercial district that has been preserved for future generations to experience. The district is listed on the National Register of Historic places for its local significance in commerce and architecture.

The city first established the district, comprised solely of Broadway Avenue, in 1987 and expanded it in 2004 to include most of the downtown.

To make things even more exciting, there are more downtown events taking place now than in my early years in Albert Lea, such as Wind Down Wednesday and other festivals.

The nomination states the $25,000 would provide funding necessary to grow Wind Down Wednesday, as well as spruce up downtown decor, including flower baskets, winter decor, patriotic decor and lighting on the corridor for events.

The contest is on Voting for the initial phase goes through April 24. If the project advances as a semifinalist, the voting will continue May 1 through May 28. The winner will be announced June 5.

Let’s show how proud we are of the history of our downtown and what it is becoming again.