Demolition underway for two downtown buildings in Albert Lea

Albert Lea demolition
Albert Lea demolition(Albert Lea)
Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 10:32 AM CDT
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ALBERT LEA, Minn. (KTTC) – Albert Lea is proceeding with the demolition of two downtown buildings to protect public safety.

Demolition of the vacant buildings at 324 and 332 Broadway Ave. began Tuesday morning after the Albert Lea City Council authorized emergency spending Monday night of up to $250,000 for their removal.

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 last month for the demolition job. At $710,824 the bid was more than twice the engineering estimate for removing the historic buildings. The council rejected that bid and directed staff to research other options.

Since then, Building Official Wayne Sorensen identified a contractor, Keith Johnson Construction of Blooming Prairie 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, 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. Pieces falling off the exterior posed a risk to pedestrians on the sidewalk below.

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

After demolition, Albert Lea said 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.

Updates from the demolition and future announcements will be released on Albert Lea’s Facebook page.