LE SUEUR — After more than four decades of having the main drag of town cut in two, residents are again driving and walking down an uninterrupted Main Street in Le Sueur.
“The pulse from the community has all been good. Everybody is excited about it,” said Mayor Shawn Kirby.
Like Mankato and many other communities, Le Sueur in the 1970s’ urban renewal era built a downtown mall. Valley Green Square Mall enclosed a block of Main Street, between Ferry and Bridge streets.
For years city and business leaders dreamed of reopening the street, removing part of the mall and building new commercial and apartment buildings along Main Street. The plan finally came together a few years ago with a combination of an $850,000 grant from the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, the purchase of the mall by Coldwell Banker Fisher Commercial Group in Mankato and some matching local funding for the public infrastructure.
New commercial spaces on the first floor face Main Street, with a wide area between the store fronts and the street, allowing for multiple uses by businesses and for community events.
“It’ll be a nice gathering area for civic events and things,” Kirby said, noting they already closed the street temporarily to allow for a benefit function.
“People were asking if we’d be able to block the street for events and I said, ‘Of course, it’s been closed for 45 years, so we can close it once in a while.’”
The community is also planning a Christmas parade down Main Street in early December.
“Everyone on Main Street is excited about it. This was a good compromise with the mall still there and being able to have the street open to help businesses. It’s going to be good for economic development,” Kirby said.
Wise Furniture is at the corner of Main and Ferry streets and co-owner Dana Manske is excited about the project, but not because she expects a lot of new customers will suddenly discover the furniture store.
“We’ve been here 65 years, so people know how to find us.”
She said the reopened street will help the downtown and also provide a better view of the historic section of the town.
“I think it will be a nice revitalization for Le Sueur,” she said.
While the city recently celebrated a “soft opening” of the street, the official ribbon-cutting and opening celebration will be next spring.
Brennan Construction is the general contractor on the project and is putting some final touches on the exterior. “We’ll be done by the end of December,” Mike Brennan said. “It’s a nice project — it really opens things up down there.”
The old mall had many vacancies in recent years, with some professional offices, such as a dentist, optometrist and orthodontist, located on the second floor.
The building’s new owner, Dave Schoof of Coldwell, worked with those tenants to relocate to the ground floor to make way for apartments on the second floor.
Schoof also secured a lease from Dollar General, which now has a store on the ground floor on the west side of the building, inside the renovated area of the existing mall.
The development consists of 48,000 square feet of new or renovated commercial space on the ground floor and 15,000 square feet of 14 second floor apartments.