MANKATO — Passage of an ordinance regulating food trucks in Mankato has been delayed until May, but that won't prevent the grand opening of a new food truck hub in Old Town in less than two weeks.
So anybody anticipating having the munchies on April 20, "The Hub — Mankato's Food Park" will be open for the season with an expected five trucks offering a variety of food.
"We have the power, the water, all the infrastructure is in," said Dain Fisher, owner of the property at 512 N. Riverfront Drive. "We'll be adding the furniture. We'll have live music — Stacy K."
Fisher won't have the final set of rules that he and other food truck hosts must follow, but there's nothing in current city code preventing operation of The Hub — which opened on a limited basis last summer.
"Food trucks can still operate in the city," said Community Development Director Paul Vogel, adding that the new ordinance is simply being streamlined with no substantive changes in drafts put before food truck owners and the public late last year.
"We had a good line of communication with the food truck interests and with the hard-site, brick-and-mortar (eating establishments)," Vogel said. "... I think we landed in the middle. That doesn't mean there won't be any controversy, but I think we addressed most of the concerns."
The Hub lands just outside the 100-foot minimum setback from restaurants in Old Town, and other regulations in the draft ordinance weren't onerous. That allowed Fisher to move forward with larger investments in the lot just northeast of the former Hubbard Milling offices, now home to the Minnesota State University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
"It's the best-case scenario so far," Fisher said of the regulations and the muted opposition to the hub from restaurant owners in recent months. "... I don't think there's any hard feelings at this point."
The Hub is authorized to host seven food trucks, and Fisher expects five for the opener with two spots reserved for truck owners looking to join at the last minute. Foodies arriving on April 20 will see more of the vision Fisher has for the site than they did for the softer openings last year.
"I just got word on some hand-crafted furniture by some local artists," he said of the steel and hardwood tables. "Those are going to the powder-coater on Tuesday, so it should be ready."
There will also be large canvas umbrellas to provide some shade, along with more greenery.
"I'm just about to approve a final design on the landscaping," Fisher said. "We're also going to have some green art there. I leave that as a bit of a surprise — think Edward Scissorhands."
Fisher also made a donation to encourage the painting of a mural on a wall overlooking The Hub. That process is moving forward through the city administration, the Twin Rivers Council for the Arts and the building's owner — Minnesota Iron and Metal.
The final design of the mural, expected to be painted by local artist Michael Cimino, will be decided through a public process involving the art council and other parties. Fisher emphasized that the mural won't be an advertisement for the food park and isn't on a building he owns, so others will need to contribute to make the mural a reality.
"At the end of the day, it's all going to come together," he said, adding that he believes both The Hub and the mural will be a nice addition to the increasingly revitalized business district. "It's kind of fun to see Old Town coming to life."
As for the April 20 grand opening, Fisher has taken a peek at long-range weather forecasts and notes that they predict temperatures approaching 60 degrees. The food trucks will be serving from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and reopening late afternoon for supper and evening festivities, which will include a screening of the 2001 crime comedy "Super Troopers" starting at dusk.