There are many things we can do downtown.

Many of you have probably heard about the work going on with the Crookston InMotion group.  Much of this has had to do with strategic thinking and planning and we’re starting to reach the point where things are actually start to take shape.  Two of four Destiny Drivers have been discussed in recent Times articles and this brings us to the 3rd Destiny Driver which is Downtown Redevelopment.  A few of us have embraced this task.  Each of the drivers have a task force guiding them but they all overlap and have complimentary goals.  The focus of our particular driver is creating more housing downtown; but with this should come many other benefits that tie into the other drivers of Sustainability & Economic Development.  

    Downtowns throughout this great country are becoming shells of their former selves.  They used to be the heart of a city and the center of commerce with many citizens living among them.  Over the years transportation has become much easier and many storefronts have either closed up or choose to move to higher profile locations and many residents have choosen to move with them.  This holds true for Crookston as well with many empty store fronts and upper levels of many buildings that have been vacant for years.   We want to change this! I’ll lay out below some of things that we’ve discussed during our meetings and input we’ve received from some building and business owners in the downtown corridor.

    1.To create at least 50 new housing units in the downtown corridor in the next 10 years. We’ve determined that we have a major shortage of housing in this community.  This is a result of necessary flood protection efforts and home removal that’s taken place over the years, a lack of new housing stock, and existing rental properties.

    2. Identify potential properties that are in need have the best development potential.  Make an assessment (pros/cons) of the property in order to find out if this project can be appealing to local investors or contractors.  There were a few properties that came up again and again in our discussions.  We feel the ones that could have the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time should be addressed first.  The Quist building, 4 Season’s building, and Eagle Drug building alone have the potential for upwards of 30 new units and make a profound difference on the landscape of downtown.

    3. Parking is one of the big road blocks that’s come up again and again to developing many of the buildings into housing due to the fact that 1.5 off street parking spaces are required per unit.  This can be addressed through use of the former Wayne Hotel, Z Place, and Rock’s building lots.  Selective demolition to create more parking for some of the larger buildings such as the Quist building, the 4 Seasons building, and the Eagle Drug building is another option being discussed.  We don’t take this option lightly as the premise goes against our driver of sustainability, but without this strategy on the table many of the buildings that currently solid could end up in disrepair and on the demo docket as we’ve seen too often in the past.

    4. Development of the Downtown Greenspace is another top priority– This is the open lot where the old Central High School once stood.  This space has been become home to the Farmers Market, hosted many of the Ox Cart Days events this past year, and it was also home to the community Christmas tree and lighted tractor display; a big thanks to Wayne Melbye for putting that together.  There is so much more that can be done with this space and there is definitely no lack of vision in this community.  With ideas such as stage, covered structures, water features, and many landscape features this could be a great asset for our community.  These ideas were proposed at the design charette headed up by Robert Gustafson early this fall.  These ideas were presented in sketch form at the InMotion meeting this past week and will be presented to the city council and community in the near future.  The Lions Club has already volunteered to take the lead on this but at some point in the next year we’ll need your hands and shovels too to help create this vision!

    We feel that all of these things will lead to more demand for services in the downtown corridor such as restaurants, bakeries, a community food coop, or a laundry mat which sounds like is potentially in the works already.  If we can achieve this we will truly create the kind of place where people will want to live.  A vibrant, walkable/bikeable, community within a community.

    I’ll close by citing a point that Jack Geller & Tom Jorgens made in their article a month or so back that the fundamental tenets of Crookston InMotion is the encouragement  that all residents are welcome to join in and contribute their skills, energy and creativity. Your ideas, vision and energy are all important. The only requirement is that you care about the future of your community and want to help provide a continual infusion of new energy and ideas that will help sustain the momentum and ensure that our efforts continue to move us forward.

    Bridgeford serves on the Crookston InMotion - Downtown Redevelopment Task Force.