City leaders to keep pushing for Blazing Star funds

Published 10:30 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Local entities are continuing to push for state funding for development of Blazing Star Landing and Blazing Star Trail. 

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday expressed support for securing state bonding for the two projects.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said money was requested as city officials try to develop Blazing Star Landing, land that has sat empty since the Farmland Foods plant burned down in 2001. The first phase of the project would move Front Street north to make way for lakefront development, as well as preliminary preparation work north of the railroad.

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“We requested $20 million in the 2018 bonding bill for both phase one and phase two development,” he said. “It’s likely that the development will actually occur in phases, but we are requesting to secure the funding in 2018 for both phases, which will need private development to advance any public infrastructure or facilities. Private development is needed to create tax base that will be captured and used to fund a portion of the infrastructure and facilities.”

The city of Albert Lea unsuccessfully requested $3.5 million in state funding during the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions for the project.

The second phase of the project includes the construction of a community center plus additional work north of the railroad. Plans for a community center have included space for senior services and programs, meeting and activity rooms, a four-lane walking and running track, a fitness room with free weights and cardio, studio spaces, an aquatics area, an indoor play park, game room, four-court gymnasium, racquetball courts and child care, among other amenities. Private development would also occur with the second phase development.

“The city of Albert Lea is part of a local partnership consisting of the (Albert Lea school district), (Albert Lea Family Y), (Senior Resources of Freeborn County) and other local community groups committed to the planning and development of the Blazing Star Landing proposal,” Adams said in a report. “The development of the site is an economic stimulus to the area, and would provide important development opportunities for the city.”

Blazing Star Trail extension

The city expressed support for a state appropriation of $500,000 in bonding for further development and paving of approximately 2.9 miles of Blazing Star Trail from Myre-Big Island State Park to Hayward. Local officials have expressed frustration with the project not being funded after multiple attempts.

“A local partnership consisting of Freeborn and Mower counties and the cities of Austin and Hayward have committed more than $2 million toward existing developed trail segments; the DNR will commit an estimated total of $2.15 million for the project,” Adams said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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