Winona is moving on improvements to Broadway after a narrow vote the second time the question became before the City Council.
The council voted 4-3 to apply for a grant that could pay for the majority of a project narrowing Broadway to three lanes and adding improved pedestrian crossings.
The entire project is estimated to be around $1.3 million. The city will be applying for a Federal Highway Administration grant that could pay up to $1 million of those costs.
According to the city’s engineering department, the FHWA has found that reducing roads from four to three lanes can reduce the rate of accidents from 19 to 47 percent.
In 2015, a pedestrian safety and traffic study gave a number of options for slowing traffic and increasing crossing safety on Broadway, partially in response to a number of accidents over the previous years.
Stantec consultants and the city’s engineering department presented a number of options ranging from a movable pedestrian-activated crossing with a flashing beacon to permanent structural changes to Broadway. Those changes included defined parking areas and a bike lane to both sides, and changing the structure of the road to include a dedicated left-turn lane.
The discussion resulted in the flashing pedestrian crossing area on Broadway as well as the relocatable speed warning signs.
When the grant became available, the city’s engineering department brought the options back to council for consideration.
This time the potential funding availability and public interest seemed to push the council to move forward with applying.
Council member Gerry Krage, who did not support going forward with more intensive changes to Broadway previously, said that despite some concerns about higher than estimated costs the safety concerns outweighed them.
“I’m going to vote in favor of this,” Krage said. “But rather reluctantly so.
“The increased safety numbers are something I just cannot argue with.”
Others were unequivocally in support of applying for the grant, which both MnDOT and the FHWA believe the city has a good chance of receiving.
Council member Pam Eyden noted the support for the project, which gathered 141 signatures on a petition and filled the council chambers with supporters, and its connection to the walkable, improved downtown the city was working for.
“I think it’s a proactive move and it favors all the development we have downtown,” Eyden said.
Estimates from other areas of the U.S., including the Iowa Department of Transportation, showed that similar road reductions can reduce the speeds traveled while also increasing the numbers of bicycles and pedestrians.
Despite that, other council members advocated for less disruptive measures, like increased pedestrian crossing improvements and more monitoring for speeders.
Council member George Borzyskowski said that the road improvements wouldn’t get to the root of the problem, which he felt was driving habits.
“We can shrink this road down to all we want,” said Borzyskowski, who voted against applying for the grant along with Al Thurley and Michelle Alexander. “Speeding gets controlled one way, by our police department.”
The grant does not have a set deadline for applying but it is hoped that doing so sooner increases the chances of getting the full amount of funding sought. The vote also approved the city dedicating $300,000 to pay its part of the project if it gets the grant.
The council also unanimously approved moving forward with two potential tax districts Monday to aid in the development of two large projects.
If they get final approval later this month, the Tax Increment Financing districts — or TIF districts — will leverage property taxes to assist in paying for development projects, in this case hotel redevelopment near Hwy. 61 and the refurbishment of a downtown building.
The plans will go to the city’s Port Authority to work out the development agreement and return to the council Oct. 16.
The first district would aid in the extensive redevelopment of the building at 102 Walnut St.
The three-story, 34,000 square foot building previously housed InTech, which vacated after a fire in 2015.
The business assistance was requested by Latsch Development LLC, which previously refurbished the Latsch Building nearby.
Peter Shortridge, managing partner in Latsch Development, said that while the TIF funds would directly aid the development project, upwards of 30 percent of the funds would also be used to make public improvements in the area, including sidewalk improvements, handicap ramps and utility improvements.
Shortridge said that despite limitations on the site and hoops to jump through to bring it back to historical standards, it would go a long ways to uplifting the block.
“We feel we’re going to have a good ripple effect,” Shortridge said.
The building was built in 1870, and after its redevelopment is planned to be a mix of retail, commercial and residential, with about 70 percent going to the business uses.
Mayor Mark Peterson said it would be a “huge asset downtown” if it’s at the same level as the groups previous redevelopment of the Latsch Building on Second Street.
“I think it’s a great project, personally,” Peterson said.
The plans include demolishing the building at 163 E. Second St. and negotiating with the Port Authority further to establish off-street parking at 163 and 167 E. Second St.
The developers total cost estimate is $7.6 million, of which $800,000 seems eligible for reimbursement by TIF funds.
The second TIF district would help aid the redevelopment of a hotel off of Mankato Avenue.
The move would pay for about $500,000 of soil remediation costs for the hotel project at 950 Mankato Ave., the site of Perkins and the former Quality Inn.
The overall cost of putting in a new four-story, 96-room Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Hotels is estimated to be $8.25 million, without the soil remediation.
The previous building was bought in 2013 for $1.1 million and torn down over 2014 and 2015.
The building is being developed by Rivers Hotel Group, which would also be managing the business. The Perkins Restaurant would be staying in place, and see improvements to the north side of the building and some of the connecting area.