A long-range vision unveiled Monday for downtown Minot includes signficant changes, and planners say funding and community support will be needed to bring the improvements to fruition.
The City of Minot and its consultant, Stantec, held a public meeting Monday on two conceptual plans and other ideas developed for the downtown as part of Minot's flood recovery project for the valley. Stantec representatives will use feedback from the meeting to develop a final document, likely by mid-December. The proposal then will go to the city council for consideration. Residents can follow the project's progress with the River Front and Center project on the city website at (www.minotnd.org).
"One of the key goals is to really reach out and bring people to the downtown," said project manager John Slack, a landscape architect and urban designer with Stantec. "We want to get people out on the street and get them into the shops. We want to get them to stay in downtown."
A rendering from Stantec shows how Minot’s Central Avenue might look after a proposed downtown revitalization project.
Among the features designed to attract people are parks and open spaces.
"The park connected to Main Street would be awesome," downtown merchant Mary Helen Hasby said of a proposal to turn the parking lot on the south side of the Wells Fargo building into a small park. Parking would shift to the ramp being built to the west of the building.
A second concept plan locates a new park along Burdick Expressway on property now used as Ward County Courthouse parking.
Both concepts include a larger park west of Third Street Northeast, just south of the bridge and near the river.
"We are looking at how downtown can embrace the riverfront and bring the riverfront into the downtown," Slack said. "In looking at how do you access the river, the railroad is just about the biggest impediment."
The railroad may be open to relocating some of its operations, though, he said.
"They have seen the long-term plans for the flood mitigation. They realize their access is going to be somewhat limited," he said.
Nothing is expected to happen for at least five years because of railroad lease agreements, he said. The railroad currently uses the property proposed for the park to store frac sand used in the oil industry.
An old grain elevator also stands in that area, and Slack said options exist for reuse, such as turning the structure into a climbing wall.
"Some communities would say just tear it down. Long term, that might be something you want to do, but there's an opportunity to play off the history and weave it into the design," Slack said.
Bonny Kemper, president of the Downtown Business and Professional Association, said she believes the proposed promenade at the Broadway viaduct would draw pedestrians downtown. The design includes a plaza on the south side of the viaduct at Broadway and Central.
"It would bring the college closer to the downtown," Kemper said.
Kemper added that the city would see a return on its money by investing public funds in downtown improvements.
"It's money being spent in the city for the city," she said.
Slack said the development of downtown will require both public and private investment because the creation of mixed-used developments with retail, offices and residential will be essential. Response to the Imagine Minot's mixed-use development and parking will be a litmus test in measuring interest in additional private development downtown, he said.
The vision that Stantec developed with downtown leaders includes a number of new buildings, particularly in the area of Central Avenue and Third Street. The plan also considers the potential for Trinity Hospital to move facilities out of the downtown, opening those buildings for reuse.
With more buildings come more parking needs, and Slack said the peak need for 6,600 parking spaces is about 1,500 spaces more than exists now. The conceptual plans propose underground parking with new developments and a new parking facility on the east side of Third Street, south of Central Avenue. Other parking would be available at a city transit center suggested for the east side of Broadway, south of Second Avenue Southwest. The center would be a bus hub and place for parking vehicles and bicycles.
"This is all about really starting to create a pedestrian-friendly public realm," Slack said. "What we want is to get people downtown, park their cars and walk around."
Aesthetics would play a role in generating more interest in downtown. The conceptual plans add trees along downtown streets. Slack said a tree canopy helps capture storm water, provide shade and create a psychological sense of enclosure that slows traffic speeds.
The plans call for city ordinances that allow for sidewalk dining and public congregation on Main Street. Slack said the vision is to offer more art and more areas for public gatherings. Design features for the downtown include icons or images on fence barriers that mark parking lots, on street posts, monuments and other streetscape elements.
"This is a way that you can immediately capture the interest of visitors downtown," Slack said.
Other streetscape items might be bike racks, benches, kiosks with maps of downtown and lists of events, and more decorative signage and lighting. Other options include street pavers or colored paving as well as bike lanes on streets that carry less vehicular traffic.
Asked at the public meeting about the existing fountain on Main Street, Slack said a water feature isn't ideal in northern climates. The historical value of the fountain needs to be evaluated, but it may be best to relocate the fountain to an urban park or elsewhere, depending on the desires of the community, he said.
The response at the public meeting to the vision was largely positive.
Brock Storrusten, branch manager for Moore Engineering, attended and concluded that the downtown revitalization would benefit community life.
"I definitely like the vision," Storrusten said. "The community needs to have a vision. There needs to be more interest, and the people need to get out there and voice their opinions a lot more."
Stantec will be developing an implementation plan to submit to the council along with the final design. Stantec will be identifying potential funding sources, recommending ordinance and policy amendments and changes to parking management.
Any revitalization starts with infrastructural improvements, and that's where Minot is in an enviable position, Slack said. The city already has obtained federal funding to assist with a major utilities upgrade downtown and also is investing in parking facilities downtown.
"The city is going to really need to prioritize how they want to invest in the downtown to make this project come to fruition," Slack said of the overall vision. He noted short-range goals might be accomplished in fewer than five years, but some goals will take 15 years or more. Some communities that he has worked with are just mid-way into their implementation after 18 years.
"This is long term, but the vision is there," he said. "It takes everybody in this community to try to push the vision forward. Each of the projects needs to be championed."