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Mason City downtown redevelopment plan presented

Bergland & Cram officials laid out a proposed redevelopment project for downtown Mason City at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.| Architect Randy Cram and planner Ron Fiscus presented a bold plan to the City Council and Mayor Eric Bookmeyer for redeveloping Mason City’s downtown area near Southbridge Mall.

The redevelopment plan has a multi-purpose arena as its centerpiece, along with a music pavilion and commercial development.

The area considered for the project is mainly south and southwest of Southbridge Mall along Willow Creek and Principal Financial parking lots. Many old buildings and some homes are currently in the area.

City Administrator Brent Trout made it clear that the multi-purpose arena portion of the project would be great for Mason City but only if it is financially feasible, meaning it at least breaks even or pulls in a profit for the City. Questions have been raised about whether Mason City can support such an arena. Many towns of similar size that have built similar arenas have been losing money on them.

Council members were divided on their initial support of this project. Jeff Marsters questioned the how the plan was being worked out, and if it was being done in a way to exclude voters from weighing in on the final decision. “It’s easy to talk about spending money when you are employed. I don’t think this is the time to do this.”

Don Nelson noted that “We are still recovering from a recession. I’m concerned about not taking it to the voters. We have higher goals: infrastructure.”

Council member Scott Tornquist took a different perspective on the timing of the project. “Now is the perfect time to begin a project like this. There would be no affect on the City’s budget till 2013 at the earliest.”

In the end, the Council agreed to appoint a 7-member fact-finding team to present to the Council by June 1, 2011. Each member of the team would be appointed by a Council member and Mayor Bookmeyer. The goal of the fact-fining team would be to answer the following questions about a multi-purpose arena for Mason City:

– What is best facility for MC?
– What is anticipated construction cost?
– What is operating cost?

Bergland & Cram put the plan together and presented it at no cost to Mason City.

Proposed budget, and how the project would be paid for:

Approximate location of proposed multi-purpose arena

Approximate location of proposed music pavilion and park area

Approximate location of proposed music pavilion facing south toward approximate location of proposed multi-purpose arena

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