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New art center/cafe to open in Alexandria

The project received a $200,000 loan through the city's Revolving Loan Fund Thursday night, Aug. 11.

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The owners of ArtisTree, Jeanne and Charles Tanksley, provided this drawing of the ideas they have for the new community art center cafe, including themed rooms such as The Dragon's Castle, Royal Round Table, Alice's Secret Garden and Splash Rooms.
Al Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA — A new art center cafe plans to open at 2020 Fillmore Street in Alexandria, the former Quality Printing/Hegg Law Office.

The project, estimated to cost $685,000, will renovate and remodel the building inside and out. It includes new windows, new flooring, safety and accessibility items as well as adding a commercial kitchen and bathrooms.

The owners are Jeanne and Charles Tanksley of Alexandria and they’re calling the business the ArtisTree Community Art Center and Cafe. They also own Venia LLC, which owns the site at 2020 Fillmore Street.

At Thursday’s Alexandria City Council meeting, they requested and received a $200,000 loan from the city’s Revolving Loan Fund. The agreement requires the loan to be paid off over 15 years at an interest rate of 6.75%.

"The project will fill an interesting niche that's needed in the city," said City Planner Mike Weber.

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The art center will connect local artists and include gathering and meeting spaces, said Jeanne Tanksley while describing the project to the council.

She said that someone once told her that you have to make a lot of bad art before you can do good art and the center will provide that practice space, such as splash rooms where artists can "make a mess" while exploring their creativity.

"It will be a place of connection, healing and expression," Jeanne Tanksley said.

The Tanksleys plan to call one part of the center "The Treehouse." It will feature two swing seats, a pop-up stage, bar and table seating, personal easels, comfortable couches, a children's chalkboard and customizable lighting.

The center will also accommodate small groups of artists, a need that local artists have expressed, she said.

The cafe, she said, will provide personalized dishes served on sweet and savory waffles, espresso drinks and floats.

The city’s loan fund dollars will also leverage additional investment for the project from West Central Initiative and Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation, as well as a private investment from American National Bank.

The city’s loan fund is projected to have an available balance of $745,574 on July 31.

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The Tanksleys will cover all closing costs, including legal, title, recording, registration tax and other costs.

They plan to hire four full-time workers and seven part-time employees by 2023.

More time to pick up yard waste?

Alexandria residents may soon have more time to have their yard waste hauled away by garbage trucks.

The council gave preliminary approval to change city code that would extend the twice-monthly pickup period for leaves and other yard waste from April 15 through Dec. 15 or until the first 3-inch accumulating snowfall after Nov. 15, whichever is earlier.

Right now the city’s refuse collection codes require haulers to pick up yard waste from May 1 through Nov. 1. However, for several years, the yard waste “season” has started earlier and ended later than those days, leaving some residents with no available pickup, according to City Planner Mike Weber.

A second and final reading of the ordinance will take place at another meeting and the change could take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

Highway 29 corridor to be studied

Council member Bill Franzen was appointed to serve on a new study review committee that will examine the Highway 29 corridor from Eighth to 18th Avenue.

The committee also includes citizen members.

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The study is part of a master partnership contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and is the first step in planning and assessing the design elements that will be incorporated in the project that’s planned for 2028, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven.

The study will include reviewing local needs for utilities, traffic operations, bike and pedestrian safety, stormwater requirements and environmental documentation. It will also provide concept layouts, along with preliminary costs.

At a council meeting in February, Schoonhoven said the corridor hasn't been studied in a while and many changes have taken place that affect it, such as the demolition of Jefferson High School.

The city contributed $5,000 to MnDOT for the study, which is expected to be completed in June 2023. According to MnDOT, the corridor consists of primarily commercial land uses.

Traffic counts indicate 16,300 annual average daily traffic in the corridor and an annual average of 1,050 heavy commercial vehicles.

Challenges, according to MnDOT, include balancing the needs of motorized traffic and non-motorized traffic, access management, local roads that access the corridor and signal operations. MnDOT plans to add new signals on Highway 29 south to Dakota Avenue.

Budget hearing scheduled

The council set a public hearing to get input about the 2023 preliminary budget and tax levy.

It will take place Monday, Sept. 26 at 7:15 during the council’s regular meeting.

The city is required to adopt the preliminary budget and levy no later than Sept. 30.

Tracking down stolen property

The Alexandria police department may soon have a better way of tracking stolen property.

The council gave preliminary approval to amend a section of city code relating to pawnbrokers. The change would give the police department the authority to determine how pawnshop records should be kept. This will allow the city to connect to “Leads Online” that would better track stolen property.

This would end the tracking of items through paper slips, said City Administrator Marty Schultz.

The city will cover the subscription fee for Leads Online, estimated at $2,500 a year.

Police officers met with local pawnbrokers and they support the new ordinance, said City Administrator Marty Schultz.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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