The old First National Bank in Mankato, also known as the Ellerbe Building, could become the city’s newest Heritage Preservation Landmark. At its meeting Monday, the City Council will vote on the designation, giving additional protection to a building that decades ago escaped demolition.

“In the ’70s, during urban renewal … we lost a lot of our buildings, a lot of our heritage,” said Courtney Kramlinger, Mankato’s planning assistant. Three buildings adjacent to the bank were torn down, she said.

In the 1990s, the bank was incorporated into the construction of the civic center. Today, vaults and terra cotta panels intact, it’s used for weddings, receptions and other events.

The structure, built in 1913, is “architecturally significant,” thanks to its Prairie School design, wrote Michael Koop of the Minnesota Historical Society in a letter to the city.

It’s “one of a group of Midwestern banks from the early twentieth century that are among the most distinguished and indigenous products of American architecture,” he said.

Jenna Ross @ByJenna


St. Joseph

Town named safest in the state by security firm

St. Joseph won top billing as the safest town in Minnesota recently, as compiled by Safewise, a home security company.

The business looked at cities with at least 5,000 residents and used FBI crime reports from 2014 to compare the rates of violent crimes and property crimes, including assault, rape, murder, robbery, burglary, arson and theft. Fourteen of the 20 safest cities in the state had fewer than 10 violent crimes in 2014. St. Joseph reported no violent crimes and just 2.99 property crimes per 1,000 people.

Other Minnesota cities can rest assured, though — the state’s overall crime rate is nearly 20 percent less than the national average, the company found.

Pam Louwagie @pamlouwagie



Troublesome rail crossing could get $42M upgrade

The city of Moorhead, at the intersection of five active freight lines, is in line for a proposed $42 million rail safety improvement project — if the Legislature approves.

The Dayton administration requested the funds in its $1.4 billion bonding request to the Legislature. The city’s Main Street crossing is a notorious traffic snarl where quarters are so cramped, it’s not possible to install warning gates to keep cars from the 85 trains that rumble through on an average day.

The proposed funding would allow the city to build an underpass for the tracks. The funds are part of $124 million in rail safety projects the administration has requested.

Other proposed projects include rail separations in Prairie Island and Coon Rapids and grants to improve rail warning systems and create railway quiet zones.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks