Soil remediation at Blazing Star would come from state funds

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Though soils at Blazing Star Landing have initially been found to be less favorable than those east of the Freeborn County Law Enforcement Center, the site is still expected to be able to be developed.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said the $20 million the city requested in the 2018 bonding bill for phase one and phase two of Blazing Star Landing development includes needed soil remediation. The project has not been awarded state bonding dollars.

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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The second phase of the project would include 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 second phase development.

The land has sat empty since the Farmland Foods plant burned down in 2001.

“We knew that a lot of the soils were not in very good condition — particularly along the lakeshore — but there are some good areas there as well, too,” Adams said.

He said the northeast corner of the Blazing Star Landing site is the only place where the fire facility could likely be built.

Adams said development costs on the two sites are expected soon, and the City Council could discuss the matter during Monday’s meeting.

The site east of the Law Enforcement Center would include 213 and 217 E. Pearl St.; 411, 415 and 417 S. Newton Ave.; 220 and 224 E. College St.; and 406, 408, 410 and 412 E. Elizabeth Ave. 

Adams said earlier this month that though soil remediation costs will likely be less expensive east of the Law Enforcement Center, there are other factors in choosing a site, noting grading costs and building a retaining wall on the Newton Avenue site would likely be more expensive than doing so on Blazing Star Landing.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. said the only way development costs would likely influence a final decision is if costs to develop the two sites are significantly different. He noted the importance of factoring in long-term projections rather than short-term costs.

“There’s more to it than just the costs, but the future costs are probably the next piece to add on top of that,” he said.

Rasmussen expressed support for placing the facility east of the Law Enforcement Center but noted he is still open to Blazing Star Landing and wants to gather more information before making a final decision.

He expressed concern placing the fire station at Blazing Star Landing would take away from potential private site development and doubted whether a fire station there would stimulate growth.

“Logistically for more right now it makes more sense, seeing that we have our police force right there,” he said of the Newton Avenue site.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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