This week, the Owatonna City Council made a move toward a new downtown apartment building. Last month, the former Arnold House was demolished to make room for a store.

The Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism announced in their Tuesday newsletter that the council approved the purchase of two more homes on Pearl Street during their Monday meeting. That makes a total of five houses purchased, which will be demolished to allow for a 33-unit apartment complex.

The brick building will have a community room and fitness center. Apartments will have decks. Steve Nicolai of Nicolai Builders told council members of his company's 35-year history in the apartment building business, primarily in Wisconsin. He expects construction to begin in the fall.

Owatonna Community Development Director Troy Klecker indicated the council looks at downtown development as a top priority as a reason for the projects. The city will be paid back for the cost of purchasing the homes and site preparation by Tax Increment Financing.

The demolition of the former Arnold House in downtown Owatonna occurred in early July and will be replaced by a new Ace Hardware store, according to the chamber.

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