By Rachel Kytonen
It was a night of presentations for the Cambridge City Council during its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 6.
During the Economic Development Authority portion of its meeting, it heard the results of the retail market study and restaurant demand analysis and the presentation of the hotel study.
Economic Development Director Stan Gustafson said he felt the McComb Group was very good to work with, and also thanked the community for its involvement in the study.
Jim McComb, of the McComb Group Ltd, presented the results of the retail market and restaurant study. The last retail market study for the city was done in 2006.
McComb said the retail market study looked at the retail areas of north and south Main Streets, downtown, and east Hwy. 95.
He said 900 people responded to the study surveys, with 50 percent of the respondents from Cambridge, and 65 percent of the respondents living and working in Cambridge.
As far as reasons for stopping in Cambridge, 44 percent of the respondents said it was close to home, and 25 percent of the respondents said it was close to work.
McComb noted the recent closing of Lowe’s in Cambridge and said the conclusion he came to was the market simply wasn’t big enough to handle to large home building material stores.
McComb said even though there is a vacancy on Cambridge’s Main Street, it’s a Main Street to be proud of.
“Your Main Street used to be Hwy. 65, and after that happened you ended up with lower traffic counts, but your Main Street still looks good for a community Main Street,” McComb said.
East Highway 95 is an attractive location for businesses to locate, due to its high traffic counts, McComb noted.
McComb suggested the council continue to look at its land uses east of Hwy. 95, and continue to work on making it a desirable area for developers.
Council Member Bob Shogren asked McComb what type of businesses the city should try to attract.
McComb said sporting goods stores, musical instrument stores, electronics, and clothing apparel stores would all be good types of businesses to attract.
Shogren asked about the possibility of a Mill’s Fleet Farm locating into the former Lowe’s building.
“They do well in communities of your size all over Minnesota,” McComb said. “Right now, I know they are looking at putting a store in Monticello. But finding a tenant for that building should be a high priority.”
As far as the restaurant study, 50 percent of the respondents were from the Cambridge area.
The survey showed 42 percent identified the Olive Garden as a restaurant they dined at, followed by Applebees, Red Lobster, Chipotle, and Perkins.
The survey also showed people are willing to travel more than 30 miles to go out to eat.
McComb said there is room for more restaurants in Cambridge, and it helps to have shovel-ready sites for developers.
Sean Skellie, of Inn Development & Management Group, LLC (IDM), presented the hotel study.
He told the Council if another hotel would relocate to Cambridge, it would have a negative impact on the current hotel in town.
He said current data doesn’t show that Cambridge has a large enough market to support another hotel.
Skellie said for a hotel to be successful in Cambridge, it would have to be competitive with other hotels, and be something new and innovative. He gave examples of Hampton Hometown and The Home 2 Suites by Hilton, as hotels that could succeed in the area.
“I hear from citizens all the time that they would like to see another hotel in Cambridge,” noted Mayor Marlys Palmer.
The Council also approved the 2012 Preliminary General Fund Budget and Levy. The Council approved a 1 percent levy increase, with the hopes of lowering it by the time the final budget and levy needs to be set in December.