City approves bid for new food truck plaza

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

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The Albert Lea City Council awarded the bid Monday for the first phase of the food truck plaza that is planned on city-owned property on East Main Street near the channel between Albert Lea and Fountain lakes.

The land, next to the new Subway being built and across from China Restaurant, was donated to the city by Roger and Nadine Olson and their family in 2019, and was gifted with the stipulation it be some kind of park-like space, said 1st Ward Councilor Rachel Christensen.

The plaza will have a concrete pad for up to three food trucks, as well electric hookups for the food trucks and landscaping. Christensen said the family also hopes it can have some benches with a plaque explaining about the land’s former owners.

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The city’s engineering department received two bids for the project with the lowest bid coming from Larson Contracting Central LLC of Lake Mills for about $92,700.

The second bid was from Doyle Conner Co. or Rochester for about $181,000. The engineer’s estimate was about $138,000.

City Manager Ian Rigg said this will be the first phase of two at the site. The second phase, to take place at a later date, will include cleanup of the channel walls and possibly setting up a kayak launch that people can utilize on the southern half of the land.

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker said at one point there was discussion at one time about how to regulate what trucks utilize the space to make sure it is fair for all food truck vendors.

Rigg said right now it is planned to treat the sign-ups the same as a park shelter rental with fees associated and a first-come, first-serve basis. If they start to have too many food trucks wanting to use the space, they might have to come up with a different system.

There are several other public spaces identified throughout the community that food trucks can set up and sell food, and many businesses often partner with food trucks as well to allow them to set up there.

Rigg said it is a popular location because it is on a Main Street, and if it is cleaned up and there are park benches there for people to utilize, he anticipates it will become even more popular.

“We may have to be very nimble, quick on our feet, if it becomes an issue,” he said.

Third Ward Councilor Jason Howland said he was pleased to see the project come to fruition after talking about it for quite some time.

“I think it’s going to be a great addition to the community,” he said, noting food trucks are becoming more and more popular and that the city in recent years has seen large growth in the number of food truck licenses issued.