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After an impactful year, DCDP envisions a big 2021

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Leaders of the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership used the Crookston City Council’s final meeting of 2020 this week to offer an update on the big year the DCDP had, and detail things they’re looking to do in 2021 to keep the positive momentum going.

    “Our sole goal is to revitalize downtown, so it’s a very limited scope. We go from bridge to bridge to bridge and to the overpass,” DCDP Board member Shirley Iverson said at the podium, joined by fellow board member Jess Bengtson. “We want to generate excitement and make people remember our historic downtown.”

     (Note: Bengtson is also assistant editor of the Crookston Times.)

2020

    With revamped leadership and renewed vigor, the DCDP was sort of rebooted in early 2020, just in time for the pandemic to hit, Bengtson noted. So the DCDP “rallied” by scheduling food trucks to set up shop downtown basically all summer, and it spurred the DCDP to purchase a generator to make it more convenient for food truck vendors to operate. Based on feedback from the local and regional vendors who parked their food trucks downtown, Bengtson said, it’s estimated that the trucks brought 6,000 people downtown.

    The food truck initiative also brought a new business to town, not actually downtown, but along University Avenue on the north end. When Heroes Rise Coffee Company of Bemidji brought their truck to downtown Crookston for one day in September, they had their most successful single day of sales ever, and subsequently decided to expand to Crookston.

    Another major initiative this year was a survey of downtown business owners, which came on the heels of a survey of downtown business employees. The employees, who said among other things that they wanted places to relax or have a bite to eat for lunch near their workplace, now have new benches downtown to enjoy, Bengtson said, and soon might be able to visit a “pocket park” at the corner of West Robert Street and South Main that the DCDP is pursuing.

    As for the business owner survey, Ward 4 Council Member Don Cavalier is leading the effort to compile all of the results. (Cavalier is a DCDP Board member, along with Ward 3 council member Clayton Briggs.) Bengtson noted that some of the DCDP’s 2021 goals already reflect some of the business owners’ feedback via the survey.

2021

    One of the first things the DCDP hopes to accomplish in 2021 is enhanced, colorful/themed lighting on the Robert Street Bridge, an effort that has been ongoing for several months.

    Increased lighting, which downtown business owners want, is another goal in 2021.

    “We want to make downtown a safe place for people to come to,” Iverson said. The DCDP’s 2021 goals, she added, are all about giving people “more reasons to come downtown.”

    Small business/entrepreneurial pop-up shops, which were a hit in 2020 as existing downtown business owners offered space in their stores for the temporary pop-up vendors to sell their merchandise, are on the DCDP’s radar again in 2021.

    “The pop-up shops were really a win-win,” Iverson said. “We received great feedback on that and want to continue to model things like that.”

    A 2019 initiative that failed to catch on was lunchtime food deliveries to downtown businesses. Both Iverson and Bengtson noted that it could have been a big success in 2020 once the pandemic hit. But they both agree that people really like food delivery service, and that such a service might be revisited by the DCDP in 2021.

    Art is a 2021 focus for the DCDP as well, with Bengtson saying the group is collaborating with local artist Trey Everett on the multi-phase pocket-park project that could involve murals and mosaics on adjacent businesses or downtown businesses elsewhere. Everett has been in contact with various downtown business owners to gauge their interest, she said.

    Another goal is to bring electrical power to the pocket park to potential events and/or performances could be held there.

    Once the business owner survey results are fully tabulated and researched, Iverson and Bengtson said they will be a driving force behind the next things the DCDP pursues.

    “We would really just like to explore what we can do, how we can do it, and when we can do it,” Bengtson said.

    Ongoing efforts will include new, updated signage on storefronts, making downtown more walkable, pursuing various grants, enhancing beautification, increasing visibility in the region, and enhancing marketing, among others.

Impressed

    Mayor Dale Stainbrook, in deadpan fashion, looked at the document disseminated by Iverson and Bengtson detailing the DCDP’s recent efforts and future plans, and noted, “You’ve been, uh…busy…this is fantastic.”

    Asked by At Large Council Member Bobby Baird how big the DCDP leadership group is, Bengtson said that she and Iverson and a couple others are the primary “doers,” but they frequently consult and collaborate with others possessing expertise in specific specialty areas, such as Everett.

    Briggs and Cavalier made a point to thank Iverson and Bengtson for their time and efforts, and the two returned the gratitude to the council members for their efforts with the DCDP.