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CITY COUNCIL UPDATE: ATCC pursues $8M student housing project

A plan to build an $8.8 million housing facility for students at Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC) was revealed at an Alexandria City Council Monday night.

The college is asking the city to act as a conduit to receive $7.5 million in industrial revenue bonds. There would be no cost to the city and it wouldn't assume any debt.

The council, at the recommendation of its economic development board, agreed to hold a public hearing on the project's financing on Monday, June 13 at City Hall at 7:15 p.m.

Although the council only briefly touched on the project Monday night, details were included in the minutes of the economic development board's meeting with ATCC leaders on May 3.

The 150-unit facility would be located on the parcel where the ATCC bookstore stands - the northwest corner of the intersection of 17th Avenue and Jefferson Street.

The non-profit ATCC Foundation is pursuing the project to provide safe, secure and convenient college living.

Plans call for a four-story facility with 34 four-bedroom suites, seven two-bedroom suites, common areas, restrooms and kitchens.

According to the ATCC Foundation, the facility meets the current trends in college housing by moving away from the traditional dorm-style living. Each floor would have laundry, common area/meeting space and a resident advisor.

The building would be secure with electronic entry and monitoring points. It would also include an elevator that meets handicap-accessibility rules.

Preliminary estimates of the rent are $500 per month, which would include cable, electricity, sewer, water and Internet access. The foundation said it would be able to achieve full occupancy with the $500 rent.

Three driving forces led to the project, according to the foundation: The deteriorating condition of the current bookstore and the cost it would take to repair it; the growing role of the foundation (it has given away 700 scholarships); and the ATCC's changing demographics - female enrollment is growing.

College leaders say more women are enrolling because more general courses are available, occupational choices are changing and the ATCC is offering more professional degrees.

Foundation leaders noted that female students rank security as a high priority and that secure on-campus housing would make the ATCC more competitive with other colleges.

The bookstore would move to a 2,200 square-foot space on the main floor of the ATCC's new building.

NEW EVENT CENTER

IN CITY'S FUTURE?

Should Alexandria build an event center?

Would it be able to compete with other communities to bring in events that would pack an economic punch?

The Runestone Community Center (RCC) Board formed a committee about a year ago to consider those possibilities.

At Monday night's meeting, two committee members, Dan Folsom and Vinnie Hennen, asked the city to pay for a $38,000 feasibility study for experts to look into a wide range of complex factors - the community's ability to attract events, the economic impact of such events, the size of an event center, costs, day-to-day operations, financing options and more.

The council decided to hold off making a decision until its next meeting on May 23, to allow council member Virgil Batesole, who was unable to attend Monday's meeting, to participate in the discussion.

Several other items spiced up Monday's meeting. The council:

• Voted to pursue a project to widen Cardinal Lane to 36 feet with curb and gutter, which would allow for parking on the street. The estimated cost - shared among the benefiting property owners, the city and LaGrand Township - is $117,600.

• Approved organizers' plans for a "Ride of Silence" bicycle event on Broadway on May 18.

• Agreed to sell a street department dump truck and call for bids on a new cab chassis for a plow truck.

• Approved a $388,448 bid from Central Specialties of Alexandria for municipal state aid street improvement projects in 2011. That's just over the city engineer's estimate of $386,047.

• Accepted a bid of $488,700 for a new fire engine for the Alexandria Fire Department.

• Referred complaints about the poor condition of Thomas Drive to the stormwater utility committee to see if the problem could be fixed using stormwater utility funds.

• Listened to a resident's concerns about the deteriorating shape of 50th Avenue and the junky looking appearance of a contractor's property in the area.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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