When it was discovered earlier this year that the highly anticipated streetscape project would result in the loss of parking spaces in downtown Owatonna, there was a sound of concern rising from the community.
Though the city was able to scale back the original 26 stalls that would be lost to only 17, it was still clear that people were concerned about losing any parking spaces on Cedar Avenue. Luckily, a new business project is opening up the possibility of adding a minimum of 24 additional spaces to an already existing downtown public parking lot.
During the Owatonna City Council meeting Tuesday night, the council approved a resolution to set a public hearing for Nov. 16 to establish a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district on the corner of West Pearl Street and North Oak Avenue. Troy Klecker, community development director for the city, said the district will be for the redevelopment of the currently empty lot into the future home of Monson Eye Care Center.
In return, the city will be doing a “land swap” to take ownership of the business’ current location on the 100 block of Vine Street.
“This is a win-win for everyone; we get a business that is expanding on a property that we’re developing, and we are able to take the old location and add some public parking to the downtown area,” Klecker said.
The current eyecare center butts up with the public parking lot on Vine Street across the street from Ace Hardware. Klecker said the building itself, which will be demolished, would add another 24 spaces to public parking.
“We can take a look at some bigger plans for the parking lot, too,” he said. “If it’s redesigned, I think we could get even more out there.”
Klecker said the opportunity was perfect timing in more ways than one. After hearing the concerns about the loss of parking spaces on Cedar Avenue, Klecker said the city was committed to looking for ways to add close, accessible parking to the area.
The project also comes in the nick of time to establish a TIF district within the three-year limit of when the building that was sitting on the corner of Pearl and Oak was demolished. The building, a fourplex, was originally demolished in the early winter of 2018, and the site was originally purchased by the city months earlier with the purpose of redeveloping it.
Brad Meier, president of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, said the redevelopment of the site partners well with the upcoming Holiday Stationstore project on the site of the former Steele County highway shop. The project is also considered a redevelopment at the intersection of West North Street and Hoffman Avenue Northwest.
“This is an excellent redevelopment of a site that has just been sitting there for a long time on a key artery into our town,” Meier said. “Both projects will make a dramatic difference in the look coming into town.”
Both Meier and Klecker said that, while the new Holiday gas station, convenience store and car wash will be just a short distance from the Kwik Trip also located on Hoffman, more options is better for the community.
“We want that good, healthy competition,” Klecker said. “It raises the bar for everybody.”
Klecker said that, realistically, both the gas station and the eyecare center projects will likely target next spring to begin. The city will also be looking into a potential redesign of the Vine Street parking lot sometime in 2022.