NORTH MANKATO — Under a master plan for Belgrade Avenue, the city of North Mankato could see more mixed use buildings, intersection bump-outs and even an expansion of its central business district.

That's what city officials covered in a draft of a Belgrade Avenue master plan during a North Mankato City Council meeting Monday night.

The new plan makes recommendations for future growth in the area over a 20-year period and highlights issues the city should tackle over the next few years. Those issues include creating building design guidelines, improving pedestrian safety and creating more opportunities for buildings to house both residences and businesses.

City officials have collected data over the past few years to create the plan. In addition, outside firms have studied the corridor's traffic and pedestrian patterns to address potential safety improvements.

That study, released in January, recommends slowing down traffic in some parts of Belgrade Avenue to make things safer for pedestrians and bikers. About 8,700 vehicles travel along Belgrade Avenue each day; An estimated 9,900 vehicles could use the avenue daily by 2041 as the city grows.

The master plan identifies several safety issues along Belgrade Avenue. An abundance of turnoffs on the north end of the avenue can make pedestrian travel difficult during rush hour, and the parking lot near the American Legion has caused traffic backups at the nearby intersection of Range Street and Belgrade Avenue. 

To that extent, analysts at engineering firm Bolton & Menk recommend intersection bumpouts, a roundabout at Lee Boulevard and Belgrade Avenue, and narrowing the road to three lanes between the Veterans Memorial Bridge and Range Street.

"There's lots of things that you can do now," said Randy Zellmer, president of the Belgrade Avenue Master Plan Steering Committee.

Zellmer encouraged the council to view the plan as a living document and work on recommendations within the next few years.

Council member Bob Freyberg was pleased with the plan, which he said was better than a previous Belgrade Avenue proposal done in 2009 that he felt focused only on one property.

"This is all-encompassing," he said.

The city will plan outreach efforts to private businesses and organizations to help the area grow according to residents' wishes. Residents in surveys and at several public forums on Belgrade Avenue say they want a grocery store, ice cream shop, a coffee shop and a hardware store, among other new amenities.

In addition, city officials are expected to start a historic preservation process to protect assets along Belgrade Avenue. Several residents have called on the city to look into preserving and protecting historical sites throughout North Mankato over the past few years. Up to 42 local properties could potentially be deemed historically significant.

City Administrator John Harrenstein said the plan will help city officials work with potential developers and residents for years to come.

"We want to make sure the corridor remains as celebrated as it is now," he said.

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