ALBERT LEA, MN — It is a plan to refresh an area downtown and the businesses located in it, but some are not on board.
Dump trucks are driving out full with what used to be part of Broadway Avenue. Some businesses do not want to put up with it and are packing up and heading out of downtown, but not everyone.
People from all over Albert Lea have mixed reactions when it comes to the Streetscape Project that is now underway.
Some even showed their support by chipping in.
“When we found out about downtown being redone, we wanted to dive on the opportunity to be a part of probably the most important things that’s happened to Albert Lea, maybe ever,” said Robert Hoffman, a real estate broker with Complete Realty.
Hoffman and his wife purchased a building downtown with many ideas on what they could do with it.
“A mixed-use facility of sorts, maybe with an appreciation toward the arts, a wine bar of sorts, the ideas are endless,” Hoffman said.
But others are working their way out of downtown.
“Sterling it makes perfect sense that they would get a better location with additional parking with a drive through for their customers,” said Randy Kehr with the Albert Lea – Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.
Sterling Drug now has a location on Bridge Avenue and there is no word on what will go into their downtown building, but Kehr said someone will be happy with it.
“It will be at one of the plaza areas that we talked about, it will be the focus of downtown events,” Kehr said, “So I think the potential for the building, whether it’s Sterling or they make a sale to someone else, is unlimited.”
He is not hiding the fact that he knows there will be some issues to work out.
“It’s going to be a challenging summer, there’s no question about it, but if we look at it as an opportunity things will come out in the end,” Kehr said.
He said it is a perfect time for business owners to give their buildings a face lift.
“Making some changes to their front while all of this is going on, and I know of at least two or three that are under serious consideration for making that happen, why not do it now?” Kehr said.
People like Hoffman will be doing just that.
“While downtown is being renovated, so will our building, so the day the new streets are open and ready, so will we,” Hoffman said.
He said this is going to take some time to see the benefits but he said with enough people like him trying to give it a chance things will turn out well.
Kehr said they will be holding parking lot events this summer with food and refreshments to encourage people to come downtown. He also said they have been working on coupon books for businesses to keep people coming even with the construction.