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Riverfront possible site for Lanesboro Art Center

Sun, Aug 20th, 2000
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Monday, August 21, 2000

Approximately 40 people attended a town hall meeting in Lanesboro last Tuesday to discuss possible sites for a proposed regional art center.

The city of Lanesboro has received $100,000 from the Minnesota Legislature to do preparation work for the art center, including site location and some preliminary design work. The legislature authorized an additional million dollars in bonding money for the center. The entire project is expected to cost around $4 million.

Architects from Close & Associates of the Twin Cities reported on some of their initial work, which included looking at possible site locations identified by the Lanesboro Art Center Commission, a fifteen member group made up of equal representatives from the city of Lanesboro, Cornucopia Art Center and Commonweal Theatre. Possible sites included the cheese factory located next to the St. Mane Theatre on Parkway and a site adjacent to the high school in Sylvan Park.

Architect Michael DeVetter admitted that there appears to be strong opposition to the Sylvan Park site as it would impact on both the school, especially the play area for children, as well as the park itself. And discussion about the cheese factory raised questions as to whether there is enough space at this site for the proposed complex.

Preliminary estimates put the size of the art center at 27,000 square feet. But according to the architects, this is usable space. Additonal space would be needed for mechanical systems, as well as to comply with state building codes for educational classrooms and other specifications. This could bring the total size of the center to as much as 40,000 square feet.

To complicate matters, both the Commonweal Theatre and Cornucopia Art Center are interested in retail space with street frontage. This could make the front of the building 125 linear feet long, which could rule out the cheese factory site.

One member of the audience brought up the possibility of the art center being located at the old elementary school on top of the hill. But this site was ruled out because of its location away from the town center.

Much of the discussion on Tuesday night centered on a possible third site along the riverfront, near Rochelle Street where the Lanesboro city shop and the Carrolton Township hall are located.

This area is proximal to the downtown retail area and could help open development of the riverfront area of the city. DeVetter said that this area could take advantage of the historic Coffee Street Bridge and possibly use the Bass Pond parking area.

"Of all the sites we have looked at, this looks most promising," DeVetter said. "And if it is done right, it will manage the impact of increased traffic."

Architect Gar Hargens pointed out that this area would need to be surveyed in terms of who owns what property, location of the flood plain, and setbacks from the river. "At this point, we will consolidate our investigation at this site," Hargens said.

In addition to investigating the riverfront site, the architects will continue to work with the Lanesboro Art Commission to identify design criteria, including program and retail space needs of the Commonweal Theatre and Cornucopia Art Gallery. One possible option would have the two operations at different sites, but part of a campus complex.

At the Lanesboro Art Center Commission meeting following the town meeting, the commission voted to formerly drop the Sylvan Park area as a possible site. The group also created an economic impact study group to look at the impact the art center will have on the community.

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