Albert Lea gets Main Street designation

Published 10:19 pm Thursday, October 24, 2019

Through a collaborative effort between the city and the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, Albert Lea was designated this week as a Minnesota Main Street community.

The designation allows Albert Lea to be a part of a program that could help further develop the downtown through a network of people and resources.

“We are extremely excited that it is now official that we are a Main Street community,” said chamber board member Tricia Dahl, who is also serving as co-chairwoman of the steering committee for the program.

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Known at the state level as Main Street Minnesota and at the national level as Main Street America — the program has been implemented in more than 2,000 cities and towns across the nation with the help of statewide revitalization programs and the National Main Street Center at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It focuses on economic vitality, design, promotion and organization as its four pillars and aims to harness the assets of a community to lead to tangible outcomes that benefit the entire area.

Other designated Main Street communities in Minnesota — Faribault, Mankato, New Ulm, Northfield, Owatonna, Red Wing, Shakopee, Wabasha, Willmar and Winona — have seen positive growth, revitalization and improvement in their Main Street district, including an increase in foot traffic, activities in the downtown and in businesses and revenue.

Assistant City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos said he is excited the community can unite under a framework that has proven to succeed in many other places and noted that the timing was perfect with the move of the chamber and the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency downtown.

“I’m thrilled that this communal effort has succeeded, and I look forward to all the work that we’re going to do next,” Gabrielatos said.

Dahl said a new committee will be formed under the chamber to support the initiative. Liz Johnson, chamber administration assistant, will be the interim Main Street director while the chamber assesses its structure. The steering committee and subcommittees will be formalized in the coming weeks.

The steering committee, currently led by Dahl and Holly Karsjens, will also soon plan a celebration to kick off the program, educate the community on the Main Street designation and identify opportunities for community members to get involved.

“Being a Main Street community is also new to us, so we have much to learn and will be participating in opportunities through the Main Street program to assure we fully utilize the benefits of this designation,” Dahl said.

She said the focus of the program is to further develop the downtown as an asset for residents.

“It is providing an inviting environment where residents want to gather,” Dahl said. “This is beneficial not only for those that have business in the downtown area, but for everyone that lives in the community. We expect it to be a recruitment tool for both business and residents.”

She said she looks forward to continuing the work that has been done to enhance downtown Albert Lea in the past 10 years. It will start off with a focus area of the historic downtown district but could cover more area in the future.

Gabrielatos said people interested in being a part of the effort should contact the chamber at 373-3938 and look for more information about upcoming events.