Demolition of 2 downtown Albert Lea buildings underway

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(ABC 6 News) – Demolition was underway Tuesday morning of two vacant buildings in downtown Albert Lea.

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday night authorized emergency spending of up to $250,000 for the removal of the two buildings located at 324 and 332 Broadway Avenue.

Drivers and pedestrians are urged to avoid the area while crews haul demolition material from the site.

The sidewalk and parking spaces on the 300 block of S. Broadway Avenue are blocked for use.

The city received only one bid of $710,824 for the demolition job, but it was more than twice the engineering estimate for removing the buildings. Thus, the council rejected that bid and directed staff to research other options.

Since then, Keith Johnson Construction of Blooming Prairie was selected and willing to do the job at a much lower cost.

The city also worked with several utilities to relocate services such as gas and electricity for neighboring buildings.

Part of the back of the 332 building started to collapse in June this year, expediting the process to remove the buildings, which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The City of Albert Lea had proposed their demolition to the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office to prevent damage to the rest of the block and to protect public safety. After the 332 building started to collapse, the state agreed that the city should proceed with demolition.

Both buildings, acquired by the city through tax forfeiture, were in severe disrepair, with collapsing interior floors and other structural damage.

The two buildings share walls with the Vitality Center to the north and former Broadway Theater building to the south, putting the neighboring buildings at risk of structural damage.

After demolition, the long-term goal would be to sell the land for private development.

In the short term, the city is considering plans to improve the open space with a small park or a parking lot with landscaping. Both options would use exterior materials from the buildings to replicate some of the lost architectural features along Broadway.

If a parking lot, vehicles would access it from the alley behind the remaining buildings.

The goal would be to enhance the downtown and complement potential reuse of nearby properties.

For updates on the project, follow the City of Albert Lea HERE.