City seeking proposals for 3 more city-owned properties

Published 8:31 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2023

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The city of Albert Lea is seeking requests for proposals for the sale and development of three city-owned properties in an attempt to return the properties back to the private market.

The properties include the former Hobby Shop at 132 S. Broadway Ave., a house at 110 N. Second Ave. and an empty lot at 722 S. Washington Ave.

The city acquired both the downtown building and the property on Second Avenue last August through tax-forfeiture and is making improvements to stabilize the properties before selling them to private parties. The Washington Avenue lot has been under city ownership since 2002 when the deteriorated house on the lot was demolished.

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The city in 2018 invested significant funds to stabilize the former Hobby Shop, by putting on a new roof and removing some water-damaged items. Albert Lea City Manager Ian Rigg said the action was taken to protect the surrounding buildings. 

He said crews recently removed 15 tons of electronic waste and 3,500 fluorescent tubes from the building. They cleared a total of nine 20-yard dumpsters worth of material.

Crews also had to rebuild the stairs to the basement that had collapsed due to water damage to get down to the materials that had to be removed. 

Rigg said though there has been a significant investment into the building, it was still cheaper than having to demolish it. He estimated it could cost at least $200,000 to demolish. 

The effort is part of a project underway by the city to stabilize tax-forfeited properties when possible and return them to the market.

Instead of demolishing all of the tax-forfeited structures the city obtains, the city is trying to rehab buildings still worth saving and using the money it would have spent on demolition costs for the repairs.

Rigg said one of the main points of the program is to avoid empty lots when possible. He noted the private market isn’t otherwise going to step in when the risk is too great.

Mayor Rich Murray said the program would continue to be evaluated to make sure it continues to do what it was intended to do, noting the city does not need to be in the real estate business. 

During the Monday meeting the council also approved a resolution authorizing the sale of surplus property found in the property at 132 S. Broadway when crews were removing hazardous and electronic waste. The property includes electronic gaming devices, toys, models, signs and collectables. The resolution also referenced various pieces of equipment, tools and furniture.

The city will first attempt to sell the property through an online auction service or advertise electronically with other retail websites.

Council declares no public purpose of 21 properties

The properties were three of 21 owned by the city that the council declared to have no public purpose with during the council meeting on Monday. 

Other properties included the following:

  • 122 Euclid Ave.
  • 206 W. Third St.
  • 322 Vine Ave.
  • 401 W. College St.
  • 604 Giles Place
  • 728 S. Newton Ave.
  • 938 Jefferson Ave.
  • 1207 S. Newton Ave.
  • 1209 S. Newton Ave.
  • 1211 S. Newton Ave.
  • 1501 Fountain St.
  • 1505 Fountain St.
  • 1509 Fountain St.
  • 205 N. Seventh Ave.
  • 121 N. Seventh Ave.
  • 119 N. Seventh Ave.
  • 201 S. Broadway
  • 211 S. Broadway

Several of the properties are empty lots that the city is seeking to return to the private market, and some are houses or buildings with potential for development.

Rigg said the council last year discussed the option to divide certain unbuildable city lots and adjoin them to neighboring properties to improve those properties at no charge. Staff made new

boundaries and legal descriptions and approved the action so it could move forward with disposing of the properties.

Rigg said the properties have the potential for development, and most have a qualified applicant with a proposal awaiting a development agreement to be approved by the council. The remainder are expected to have offers and agreements made in 2023.

The council later in the meeting approved a development agreement and sale for the property at 604 Giles Place. The new owner, Kevin Chapman, plans to fix it up to provide housing for veterans, Rigg said.

The work has to be complete by the end of the year.