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NORTH MANKATO — A series of Belgrade Avenue improvements scheduled for next year could cost the city of North Mankato $400,000 or more.

North Mankato officials outlined the improvements, which include new lighting and signage along the 200 block of Belgrade Avenue, with the North Mankato City Council Monday.

The project includes flashing lights at Belgrade Avenue and Range Street, along with replacing street lights in the area and installing more signage to highlight nearby amenities. One alley accessway, west of the American Legion, will be closed, while an alleyway between Range and Wall Street just north of the businesses along the 200 block of Belgrade would be expanded.

City officials estimate the project will cost between $380,000 and $425,000 to put together. North Mankato staff and council members favor paying for the project by borrowing through a tax-increment finance district set to start for the future Frandsen Bank & Trust and the Rooftop Bar + Kitchen.

TIF districts set aside a portion of the taxes paid from the additional valuation of a redeveloped site to be given back to the developers to cover costs allowable by state law. While the city and the developer for the two businesses have yet to negotiate who’s responsible for various improvements, City Administrator John Harrenstein said the city initially figured a nine-to-10-year TIF district agreement.

That district, which would give back about $75,000 per year, would be slightly extended, though city officials aren’t yet sure how long.

“A priority of the council has been to keep TIF districts open for as short a time as possible,” Harrenstein said.

The new street lights would use LED lighting and could be fitted with cameras to record audio or video in the future. That could cost about $175,000, depending on the type of street light systems.

Closing the alley accessway and widening the alley north of the new businesses is projected to cost about $135,000. Burying nearby Xcel Energy power lines on the east side of Range Street near the alley could cost $50,000 to $75,0000.

North Mankato has already budgeted about $25,000 for the new signage, along with flashing lights at the Belgrade/Range intersection. City Engineer Dan Sarff said the flashing light signs are normally reserved for a mid-block crossing, but city officials feel the signage is warranted as residents and staff are concerned over traffic speed along Belgrade Avenue.

City staff will study the Belgrade Avenue corridor after the Frandsen and Rooftop construction is done to gauge whether the roadway needs more safety features.

Consultants at Bolton & Menk raised the idea last month to cut Belgrade Avenue down to a three-lane intersection in the middle of the 200 block and install a mid-block crossing. City staff plan to study how the new businesses affect traffic once the project is complete.

Some council members appear to welcome future pedestrian improvements. Diane Norland said she was surprised to see the traffic coming from Mankato during a recent open house on the bank and restaurant project.

“That traffic burns off that bridge,” Norland said. “We’ve got to have, I think, everything possible for safety.”

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