Recently the Prairie Skyline Foundation (PSF) offered the former Methodist Church as an in-town site for a large daycare to Craig Hoiseth of CHEDA.  Kay Hegge, Board Chair of PSF, showed the building to Hoiseth, and although much work is needed, the value of the building could be clearly seen.  The big advantage is size.  There are 10 large “Sunday School Classrooms,” a small gymnasium, a place to hold small plays, a dining room, offices, and a kitchen.  PSF obtained the building from Rainbow Ministries who were letting it go to back taxes.  “We all know what happens to tax-forfeited buildings that are dumped on the County.” said Hegge, who had experienced first hand Polk County’s preference for tearing down historic buildings. We are working on the Cathedral right now, so we are just going to get the electrical and heat going again while gathering estimates on the roof. Craig Hoiseth explained that a daycare will need a fire suppression system, become ADA compliant, it needs an outside play area, and a newer commercial kitchen.

    Kay said she has a personal vision for Crookston which includes the daycare (or maker fair) ideas of PSF and CHEDA and much much more.  Her vision looks at the Downtown Square area and Central Park as a mini or sub plan of JLG Architects Downtown Plan, which recommends doing a project like the “Community Center with Art and Heart” in the old Cathedral and saving the Methodist Church for something outstanding as well.  Also recommended by JLG is an outdoor swimming pool in the area where the Red Barn sits.  The Red Barn would be moved to Central Park for a better warming house with bathrooms for outdoor skating rinks.  The proposed “Young at Hart Center” would be completed in the old Cathedral bringing more kids and families downtown and tourists as well.  Central Park is saved for huge playful sculptures made from pallet wood and trimmed shrubbery around the edges while keeping the middle for events like “Nite to Unite,” etc.   Tim Persson thought of a bowling alley in the old Central High School gym. Central Square can move to where First Community Credit Union may be torn down or any other space nearby, we have plenty! And the old Bus Garage can become a petting zoo. Families and tourists will be able to spend money on gas, food, gifts, and sundries downtown EVERY DAY! All ages can attend activities at the Library, the Carnegie Library, and the Grand Theater as well.  “I know you have already imagined a “rent a bike stand, “rent a kayak stand,” artsy benches, and more public art in the “Kids Zone.” said Kay

    Now if the goal of the “Most kid friendly small town ever” is adopted, spend the $350,000 on architectural plans and have the architects cost out the objectives above. Sometimes, you must do the things that cost more for the sake of the bigger picture.  But not without a process for how the work will be funded and operating costs subsidized. Remember the “Flood Fund” folks?  Like that successful vision, this is could be the new successful goal. The City could have line items in the budget for projects that meet the goal, then look at sources and uses for funding these projects, taking the “Kids Zone” into the next Bonding Bill if needs be.  Luckily our City is in a position to dramatically help this goal/vision along.    

    “As projects, spin-off ideas and businesses evolve, there should be a paperwork process like the CHEDA loan fund for EVERYONE to apply for funding from the “Fun Fund” which is modeled after the Flood Fund.” Kay said. “Although the City has excelled at addressing housing needs, there doesn’t seem to be one overarching goal; nor a fair, transparent, and reasonable process to spend money that is beyond ongoing infrastructure and housing.” Fortunately, we have the Downtown Plan, but it is without the “How to do it” part which is the overarching goal and establishing the processes that will keep all of us on track. We expect our governments to have paperwork! she said, and we expect a way for the community to have more than their five minutes of input. Town halls whether virtual or not could be one way. In the meantime, put the $350,000 into the “Fun Fund,” call your Councilman (see https://www.crookston.mn.us/ns/gov/elected scroll down for map) and if you like these ideas, like the new Facebook Page and/or join the Group discussion: “Just say “Yes” to Kids Zone in Downtown Crookston,” and “Just say “No” to RV Park in Central Park.”