Construction completed in downtown Lake Elmo

Lake Elmo City Council member Christine Nelson, left center; Mayor Mike Pearson, center; and Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel, right center, cut the ribbon for a revitalized downtown area Aug. 21, while John and Chris Schilitz, owners of Lake Elmo Inn & Event Center held the left side of the ribbon and Wayne Sandberg, Washington County engineer and deputy public works director, held the right side. photo courtesy of the Washington County public works department

The end of a five-year construction project in downtown Lake Elmo was celebrated Aug. 21 in front of the Lake Elmo Inn & Event Center. photo courtesy of the Washington County public works department

photo courtesy of the Washington County public works department

A ribbon cutting was held in downtown Lake Elmo the morning of Aug. 21 to mark the end of a five-year construction project to revitalize the downtown area. 

The event was attended by representatives of both Washington County and the city of Lake Elmo, as the project involved a partnership between the two entities.

Improvements made to the downtown area included the removal of more than 100 septic systems from private properties and the addition of a new sanitary sewer system to those properties. Aged water main pipes were also replaced, curb and gutter systems were added and more than 40,000 square feet of new sidewalk was installed.

A statement from Washington County noted, “Before the project, downtown Lake Elmo had rampant flooding, poor pavement and inadequate pedestrian facilities that plagued downtown.”

“[The project] started with a regional surface water management plan that allowed the county and city to jointly construct a regional storm water facility, which solved flooding problems that have plagued the old village area for decades,” said Wayne Sandberg, Washington County engineer and deputy public works director. “Once we had a way to manage the surface water, we could then confidently invest in improving the infrastructure.”

Mayor Mike Pearson noted that it would have been difficult for Lake Elmo’s low number of staff members to handle such a large project. 

“Partnering with the county provided efficiencies as well as access to individuals who specialize in these types of projects. This helped to lower costs and allow for an on-time completion date,” Pearson said. “We’re very appreciative of the county’s assistance.”

According to Pearson, the city paid about $10 million for its portion of the project. Funding sources included special assessments, general fund taxes, utility fees and a state grant. Pearson noted that the city’s growth has also mitigated the financial impact to residents.

Sandberg said that the county’s portion of the project totaled approximately $4.5 million. The county utilized County Highway State Aid funds to pay for its share, which are comprised of gas tax revenue and license tab fees.

The first phase of construction, which happened in 2015, took place on 36th Street from Lake Elmo Avenue to Lavern Avenue, the alley between Lake Elmo Avenue and Lavern Avenue, and most of 33rd Street.

The second phase of construction, which primarily took place in 2016, happened on Lake Elmo Avenue from Stillwater Boulevard to 30th Street, and 30th Street from Lake Elmo Avenue to Reid Park. For the most part, the project was completed in early August, Sandberg said.

“There are still small items to do — finishing touches on retaining walls, landscape items and so forth. But overall the project is substantially complete, and all lanes are open for traffic,” he added.

Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel told the crowd at the ribbon cutting ceremony, “Downtown Lake Elmo is open for business and I urge people to check out the new downtown and support the local business community while doing so.”


Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or


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