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What should go in the old fire station space?

City exploring use for Senior Center, library

 

Moving the Albert Lea Senior Center and expanding Albert Lea Public Library are being discussed as options to fill space left when the Albert Lea Fire Department station transitions to a new building east of Freeborn County Government Center next year.

Albert Lea Assistant City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos said natural light at the current fire hall would be a good fit for the Senior Center. He said the organization, currently at Skyline Plaza, 1639 W. Main St., could benefit by moving to the space when the Fire Department moves in March 2020.

“It’s worth considering because there could be more opportunities for programming at the Senior Center and potentially collaborations with the library and recreation,” he said.

“We also feel like we could expand programming opportunities for Senior Center and recreation and library. There’s a lot of crossover there.”

An estimated $36,000 in rent the city pays annually at the Senior Center could be saved by the transition.

The Senior Center has 275 members and offers a pool room, bingo, Red Hat Society, craft and card recycling, quilting, lounge space, birthday parties, card and bridge games and support services.   

Gabrielatos noted he has not compared square footages at the current space and the fire station.

Albert Lea Public Library Director Peggy Havener said the space could be used by the library to expand its adult and children’s programming.

“It’s a community space,” she said.

Havener predicted the library will not need the entire fire hall for its operations and spoke highly of the possibility of the Senior Center also utilizing the space.

“That’s a huge space,” she said. “That’s an area a lot of us could use in a lot of different ways.”

Havener noted the only way to enter the second-floor space at the current fire station through an elevator is if users walk through the children’s library.

“That could cause some problems as well,” she said.

Gabrielatos said the Senior Center could be placed on the first floor so an elevator would not be needed for members and noted the process is in an initial phase and is evaluating potential parking and access. 

“We’re just exploring,” he said.

Havener said Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams is setting up a committee to evaluate the possibilities and predicted the decision would be made on what best suits the space.

“That’s probably the most important point,” she said.

 

About Sam Wilmes

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

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