Bluff Park

Bluff Park in North Mankato is on the council's list for improvements in 2020.

NORTH MANKATO — A new shelter and restrooms at North Mankato’s Benson Park could be complete by the end of the year, with Bluff Park next in line for improvements in 2020.

The North Mankato City Council discussed the park upgrades in upper North Mankato among its capital improvement project priorities heading into 2020 at a work session Monday.

Follow-up work at Benson next year would include matching secured Safe Routes to School funding to build a trail from the park through Dakota Meadows Middle School’s property to Caswell Park. The ongoing and upcoming Benson Park improvement plans come after the city resurfaced its trails in July.

The city also would look to use grant dollars to build a handicap-accessible overlook at Bluff Park in 2020. Mayor Mark Dehen said updating the parks has been a long-term goal for the city.

“We need to get Benson done,” he said. “That was the promise we made to the citizens. We’re making that happen this year.”

Updating some of lower North Mankato’s oldest residential infrastructure — rows of streets named after presidents — also will remain a priority over the upcoming years. Jefferson Avenue was upgraded last year and Tyler Avenue is still to be finished this year. Dehen said Pierce or Harrison avenues could be next.

“Those roads have some of the oldest infrastructure in lower North,” he said. “So we’ve been trying to do one of those a year.”

New lighting in the Belgrade business district is another project on the city’s radar for next year. The plans were outlined in a recently finalized proposal calling for ambitious lighting projects for both North Mankato and Mankato’s entertainment centers.

The council’s discussion on the matter focused on light and pole replacements on the 200 block of Belgrade first with a possible expansion into the 300 and 400 blocks later. The poles would accommodate cameras to improve safety, complementing major private redevelopment plans on Belgrade.

The former Cenex Expressway and Fran- dsen Bank’s drive-thru are set to be demolished this fall to make way for the bank’s new offices next to Circle Inn and the Rooftop Bar + Kitchen next to the American Legion.

City works and other municipal buildings will eventually need to be upgraded, although the parks and streets projects are more pressing needs. City Administrator John Harrenstein indicated the city is in a strong position to fund needed projects, but the council could face hard decisions on capital project improvements in the future if another recession hits. “Just like you’re in your own homes doing your budgeting, that’s how we’ll handle that,” he said.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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