ST. CLOUD - It will still be several months before you see any real changes to a downtown St. Cloud parking lot, but Mayor Dave Kleis and City Council members went ahead and held a groundbreaking ceremony this (Monday) for the new parking ramp. The council then spent time going over design options during their study session.

The ramp will primarily be built on the lot behind the Mexican Village, but could be extended over 5th Avenue.

The State Legislature approved nearly $11.6 million in bonding money during the session this past spring. Kleis says, because the legislature waited until the end of the session to pass the bonding bill, that has delayed the start of the project.

Once a design has been selected, they plan to go out for bids this winter, with construction starting in the spring. Kleis says they're hoping to have the bulk of the work done by the start of next winter. The cost is estimated to be around $16,000 to  $17,000 per parking stall, with over 400 stalls planned.

The ramp will be the final phase in the expansion of the River's Edge Convention Center. St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce President Teresa Bohnen says the city has been working to finish the project for 18 years.

Kleis credits the expanded Convention Center for the recent revitalization of the downtown.

Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice