Downtown Albert Lea on the upswing with events, building fixes

Historic downtown Albert Lea is on the upswing with more than three dozen events held throughout the year and owners continuing to make building improvements.

One event will be this Saturday, April 16, when the Albert Lea Main Street program holds the Golden Egg Hunt and Shop, with participating businesses offering prizes plus one special egg holding a $100 gift card. Shoppers may hunt for the golden egg at shops and restaurants downtown, along with Northbridge Mall, Skyline Mall and East Main Street. For a complete list of participating businesses, follow Albert Lea Main Street on Facebook.

The Main Street Program, which is in its third year, helps businesses in Albert Lea’s historic downtown thrive by coordinating retail events, promoting local shopping, and investing in projects that improve downtown’s appearance. In 2021, Main Street organized 36 events along with partnering with the City for Thursdays on Fountain, a weekly free outdoor concert, and adding additional entertainment and support to the Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Shopping is not the only activity downtown. Remodeling and repairs are also happening. In 2021, downtown building owners invested a total of $426,481 in property improvements, according to City of Albert Lea building permit records. And that dollar figure doesn’t include building improvements that don’t require a permit, according to City Planner Megan Boeck. This year is looking even better.

“There are a number of building owners who have improvements on the calendar in 2022 that will not only improve the appearance of the buildings, but will improve the structural integrity of our historic downtown,” Boeck said.

The City of Albert Lea also invested $12,105 in the form of matching grants from the Broadway Ridge Grant Fund. Three projects were funded including window replacement, signage, and tuck-pointing and painting. The grant fund is a collaboration among the city of Albert Lea, Freeborn County, and various community banks for facade improvements. The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission administers the funds.

To keep supporting downtown revitalization, the City will be repairing the façade of the Jacobson Building this year and is proposing removal of vacant buildings at 332 and 324 Broadway Ave. due to their unsafe and inhabitable conditions.