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State grant may help Broadway project

A state grant could help pay a sliver of the cost of a $14 million redevelopment project at the corner of Broadway and Third Avenue in Alexandria.

At its meeting Monday night, Alexandria City Council members, acting as members of the city's Economic Development Authority, unanimously agreed to support a grant application that would provide $188,000 to help cover demolition expenses. The action was recommended by the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission.

The grant program, offered through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, helps communities with the costs of redeveloping blighted industrial, residential or commercial sites.

There is $2 million available in the program. At least half of that money will be awarded to sites outside of the seven-county Twin Cities area.

GoodNeighbors Properties is the developer for the proposed project. It is also seeking tax increment financing, which will be discussed at a public hearing before the council on Monday, Feb. 25.

The project would replace vacant buildings that last housed Bello Cucina restaurant and Blue Collar Bob's. The new four-story complex would consist of commercial and retail space — including a new, unnamed restaurant — along with 75 apartments, ranging from studios to one- and two-bedroom units.

New interchange layout

The council agreed to share in the cost of a study for a conceptual layout for a new third interchange for Alexandria at Interstate 94 and Pioneer Road.

Several layouts will be drawn up for the new interchange that will reconstruct the Burgen Lake Rest area and divert traffic onto Pioneer Road. Westbound drivers will not have to travel along Pioneer Road to return to westbound I-94 but they may have to cross it.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation asked the county and city to cover about 10 percent of the total cost and each agreed to contribute $10,000 each. The county approved its $10,000 share last week.

The city's share will be taken from its Plans and Studies Fund.

$1M grant is official

At its last meeting, the council discussed the news that it will receive a $1 million grant from the Minnesota Housing Workforce Housing Development Program to help build a 32-unit, $4.48 million workforce rental housing development.

On Monday, the council authorized the city administrator to execute the contract.

To get the grant, construction must start within 12 months and the project must be completed within two years once building begins.

Central Lakes Apartments will be located on property owned by the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority north of the Central Lakes Trail, just west of Birch Avenue and south of Lake Park Avenue.

The next step in the project is consideration of tax increment financing. Last year, the council adopted a resolution supporting TIF for the project.

The council previously authorized a partnership with D.W. Jones on the project and the business completed the grant application on behalf of the city. D.W. Jones is the same company that partnered with the HRA on the Deer Run apartment project. It will manage the apartment building after construction.

The Alexandria HRA acquired the property through tax forfeiture last year.

Flags to honor Martin Luther King

The council took official action to fly the flags on Broadway in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, which is observed on the third Monday in January, starting next year.

The federal holiday will be added to the city's list of days when flags are flown in the city.

Coffee with the Council is a hit

The first ever "Coffee with the Council" held last Friday, Jan. 25 was a hit, according to council member Roger Thalman.

Thalman, who came up with the idea as a way of reaching out to local business owners and residents, said his expectations were low for the first one. He said if two or three people showed up, he'd consider it a success and if five or more made it, he'd be ecstatic.

"We had five," he told the council. "It went well. I'm excited about it."

The small group shared some ideas at City Hall and suggested the council to come up with a topic to discuss at future meetings, such as promoting arts or public safety.

Right now, the coffees are being held monthly but may be increased to two a month if interest is strong, Thalman said.

Watch the city's Facebook page for dates, times and which council member will be there.

Have something on your mind? Have an idea for the city? The coffees are your opportunity to simply chat with elected leaders who are ready to listen, according to Sara Stadtherr, city communications coordinator.

For more details, email: SStadtherr@alexandriamn.city.

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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