Community Connections - DCDP rises above to become ‘doers’ in the community

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    The Downtown Crookston Development Partnership (DCDP), first named the Downtown Crookston Development Advisory Group, was established in late 2015 after the downtown was flagged as a key driver for the city and its creation was charged with the goal to work toward Main Street programs. Throughout their short history, the DCDP has pushed forward with many success stories and have stuck to their mission of “revitalizing Downtown Crookston by building leadership and enriching the life of the community by connecting the past with opportunities for the future.”

    Their core goals include developing a vision and plan for Downtown Crookston, identify and build upon local assets, build strong public-private partnerships, enhance the downtown’s sense of place and determine the downtown market.

    In early 2021, the DCDP gave an update on their 2020 successes at a Crookston City Council meeting. Those 2020 successes include:

    • Hosted weekly food trucks during the spring/summer/fall bringing more than 6,000 people downtown during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic (the idea of the food trucks was geared toward downtown employees following survey results)

    • Partnered with local restaurants to participate in pop-up food stands downtown

    • Purchased a portable generator for food truck use

    • Produced, distributed and collected a downtown business survey on various topics

    • Hosted Food Truck Fest during third week of August with multiple new food vendors

    • Held the annual Chalk It Up art event social distance style

    • Hosted Heroes Rise coffee truck and provided free coffee to the public and to first responders which resulted in Heroes Rise Coffee Company opening a brick and mortar location in Crookston after citing big success from their one-day event

    • Hosted the first annual Historic Halloween Candy Hunt for the community social distance style while partnering with downtown businesses and landmarks to provide historic facts about each stop plus a pop-up by Crookston High School’s Kiwanis Builders Club

    • Partnered with downtown businesses and local artisans/vendors/home businesses for a shopping event during Small Business Saturday

    • Researched bridge lighting and held discussions with vendors and local electricians to light up Robert Street Bridge (still awaiting permit signatures by the city for the MnDOT cooperative agreement to install the lights)

    • Installed “Downtown Crookston” benches at 2nd St. and Broadway, and are currently working with groups to install more benches downtown to improve walkability

    In 2021, the group announced they hoped to continue hosting community and annual events, increase downtown business and community partnerships, potentially add additional bridge lighting, add more benches in various downtown spots, develop the green space at the corner of Main and Robert Street in three phases, market downtown to visitors in the region and beyond, work with the city on downtown beautification, work with historic building owners to increase visibility and enhance features, add visual art via murals/sign updates/lighting, enhance downtown safety with increased lighting, improve walkability and increase traffic for downtown retailers, and apply for grants for various projects.

    So far in 2021, the group has kicked off their spring/summer/fall food truck pop-ups downtown at Broadway and 2nd St. with 40 food truck events scheduled from April to September, they’ve renewed their nonprofit status with the State of Minnesota and became an established component fund with a 501(c)3 tax exempt status under the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, they shared the results of the 2019/2020 Ward 4 downtown business survey with the public, partnered with local artist Trey Everett to create phased renderings of the proposed green space at Main and Robert, installed a winter “Sled Check-Out” free for the public at Central Park by the Crookston Community Pool, renewed their Articles of Incorporation, submitted a $4,000 AARP grant, started the RSDP IDEA grant process, partnered with Crookston High School Industrial Technology teacher Travis Oliver and his students to enhance the existing downtown garbage can structures, worked with Polk County Public Health and SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Program) on a wellness project with maps of downtown and walking routes with different time increments, partnered with the newly established Crookston Visitors Bureau on new welcome signs for the city, submitted a grant to Crookston Parks & Recreation for an interactive sign highlighting downtown near the entrance of Central Park, and is working toward submitting a 2022 budget request to the city.

    The Downtown Crookston Development Partnership consists of board members Shirley Iverson (President), Jeff Evers, Dan Svedarsky, Don Cavalier, Jess Bengtson (Secretary), Ryan Palm (Treasurer), and Rani Bhattacharyya with liaisons including Michelle Christopherson, Dennika Mays, Teresa Spaeth, James Leiman, Trey Everett, and Kristie Jerde.


    • In late 2016, the DCDP approached the City Council to request funds to hire a part-time facilitator and were awarded $120,000 to be spread out over three years ($45,000 that year, $40,000 for 2017 and $35,000 for 2018) with the idea that the director would help make the partnership self-sustaining after that. The group mentioned they didn’t want the organization to disappear after a year and appreciated the help from the city in that process. Later in 2017, the DCDP voted to remove the facilitator. They also experienced almost a complete turnover of board members. Sub-committees were formed to focus on specific projects downtown and the strengthened committee structure was cited by DCDP leadership in explaining the logic behind voting in favor of the facilitator’s removal.

    • In June 2017, the DCDP hosted an interactive “Community Forum” at the historic Fournet Building to help build excitement around Fournet owner Jeff Evers’ plans to renovate. Former Crookston Area Chamber & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Amanda Lien explained that the forum was for community input and idea generation for the entire downtown. Tours were led by the Chamber, Polk County Historical Society and DCDP volunteers, and the route led visitors down the original entrance stairs that had recently been reopened and not used in over 50 years. Those stairs brought guests into the old men’s store area where the forum was set up and managed by the DCDP.

    JLG Architects helped to create feedback boards that the community was able to participate in interactively at the forum and the feedback taken in was hoped to be used for placemaking opportunities, gateways and connections within downtown in order to complete the Downtown Master Plan which was then completed by JLG and submitted to the state in order to fulfill grant requirements. JLG had also compiled pertinent feedback that was gathered from the 2016 Crookston Comprehensive Plan that previously addressed the community’s support to redevelop downtown, restaurants, retail, recreational facilities, aesthetics, safety and wayfinding.

    Note: The grant that the Chamber received in 2016 required the involvement and education of the broader community on the downtown vision, and a final downtown redevelopment plan that incorporated affordable housing elements to create a neighborhood in downtown Crookston.

    • In July 2017, the DCDP Art committee hosted a Summer Art Party in the Crookston Times’ green space where people gathered to paint and create art on different mediums like pallet boards, rocking chairs, sheets of plywood and more. The next month, in August 2017, the DCDP Art committee hosted their second Summer Art Party in the alley ways by the Fournet Building and Montagues Flower Shop. People spray painted art like a fiery piano, prairie chicken, Pac Man game replica, and wings in the alley.

    • In September 2017, the DCDP started a refund incentive of up to $5,000 in rebates for downtown businesses and building owners to install outdoor lighting and LED lights. The goal was to increase visibility, improve safety, create curb appeal and support the city’s journey for environmentally responsible use of green energy.  

    • In 2018, the DCDP added two portable patios to the city to be made available for use by downtown businesses for special events this summer. The group raised money for the movable patio decks after seeing them in other communities.

    The 8-foot by 20-foot patios were constructed by Wagner Mobile Welding of Crookston and made of steel and heavy plastic decking. They also include a drop-down ramp to make them accessible to everyone. The patios allow downtown businesses the opportunity to do events such as sidewalk or tent sales on the street.

    The DCDP donated the portable patios to the city and city crews are responsible for storing and moving the patios, as well as managing reservations. A Limited Use Permit was submitted to the Federal Transportation Administration by the DCDP and Minnesota Department of Transportation with a request for placement of the patios (also called parklets) along Highway 2 in Crookston’s downtown.

    After their ribbon-cutting of the project, the DCDP held multiple “Party on the Patio” events downtown at the old Wayne Hotel parking lot with food trucks, breweries, kids games and activities, and music, plus they had partners like the University of Minnesota Crookston attend and help host.

    • Also in 2018, the city said they had plans to work with the DCDP and Widseth Smith Nolting on alternate solutions to the downtown sidewalk plan after a deeper look brought up cost concerns and feasibility regarding ADA compliance.

    • The DCDP debuted “Affirmation Alley/Inspiration Lane” behind the Fournet Building with sign art that many people have posed for pictures with. They also invited visiting international students from China to create art on a concrete planter at the corner of Main and Robert.

    • The DCDP debuted the first annual Queen City Art Festival (named after Crookston’s first city name) in 2018 with artists, shopping, music and food, adding to the Chalk It Up art event.

    • Later in 2018, the DCDP entered the next phase of its energy efficiency incentive program for downtown business and building owners that would allow for up to $5,000 in rebates by replacing old furnaces or water heaters for a higher-effiency unit.

    • In 2019, the DCDP partnered with Bike Crookston, City of Crookston, Crookston Running Club and Polk County Public Health to install a bike repair station at the Main Street Courtyard downtown adopted by the Crookston Rotary Club. Future plans for the space include more beautification and wayfinding signage.

Downtown Crookston bench at Broadway and 2nd St.
Kiwanis Builders Club members helping at the DCDP's Historic Halloween Candy Hunt event in 2020
Joy from Sap Sap Kitchen's food truck which started its visits to Crookston in 2021
Historic Halloween Candy Hunt building fun facts posted during the tour
Queen City Art Festival mural from 2019
DCDP Sled Check Out Winter 2020-21