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Bemidji City Council to offer direction on events center design

BEMIDJI -- A three-night planning process on the exterior design of the Bemidji events center will culminate tonight with a special City Council meeting.

Architects from Leo A. Daly this week have presented potential designs to councilors and members of a design committee for the facility. Those concepts have been reworked during the week to include officials' preferences.

They will, again, be tweaked today in preparation for tonight's meeting based on comments made during Wednesday's session. Mainly, specific components of the building will be lightened in color and metal paneling will be included to break up the facade.

"I miss having some metal as a component of the building," said Steve Singer, an architect with Leo A. Daly. He said the metal paneling added a sleek look to the exterior and offered a lighter, more energized appearance.

Metal paneling had been nixed following comments made during Tuesday's session, during which participants indicated their preference or opposition to design elements used in similar projects; metal paneling did not gain a favorable response.

But Councilor Ron Johnson said it wasn't that he didn't like the idea of metal - he just didn't like the pictures of buildings that had an overwhelming amount of metal paneling in one location. He liked the idea of having metal paneling framing the windows on the exterior of the events center.

Likewise, Councilor Onen Markeson said the designs that were preferred by participants in Tuesday's session all utilized different colors to break up the vastness of the building.

"All of them have some light-colored (materials) - steel or something," he said.

New site plan

A new site plan for the events center complex was unveiled Tuesday and expanded upon Wednesday.

The building formerly was proposed to have the arena running north-south and had the convention center as a separate, but adjoined, building to the north.

The design team has now planned a more compact, economical building that has the two components working in tandem with each other. This will better allow for events whose organizers want to utilize both spaces, the design team explained.

Additionally, the building's footprint has been shifted. Instead of having a geometric north-south building, the complex has been rotated to the west, putting the main entrances of the building at an angle.

Those inside will now look out to the northwest to see Diamond Point Park and Bemidji State University across Lake Bemidji.

"It's actually a very nice view," said Tom Whitlock, a landscape architect with Damon Farber Associates. "It really could be a spectacular view at night."

Shifting of the facility also has offered a nicer area in front of the building for a plaza, he explained. Here, there could be opportunities for tailgating, venders' tents and tents for shows such as art fairs.

"It's open, flexible, green space," Whitlock said.

Landscaping ideas

Participants in the design sessions to date have encouraged the use of natural vegetation and native landscaping.

On Wednesday, architects visited the south shore of Lake Bemidji and considered the vegetation already in the area.

Whitlock said there are large evergreens on the western edge of the property and birch and poplar trees on site. In the wetland areas, there are red twig dogwoods, which he said he would like to utilize throughout the events center property.

"There really are a lot of great things on site from a landscape perspective," he said.

Council meeting

The City Council will convene at 6 p.m. today in the Diamond Point Room at the Hampton Inn & Suites.

Singer said architects plan to present revised design plans and more detailed views of the site plan.