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Bemidji City Council: Downtown plan examined

The Bemidji City Council met with the Downtown Development Authority Monday to discuss the downtown study.

The downtown study, also known as the Bemidji Central City Plan, is being done by RDG Planning & Design. RDG was hired in January 2008 to complete the study, which examines development and redevelopment opportunities throughout the city.

RDG is planning a final presentation with the completed study in mid-June, said City Manager John Chattin.

Monday night's work session was an opportunity for the council and DDA to discuss the downtown study and identify priorities.

The DDA selected 10 projects to focus on in the coming five years:

- Priority 1: city parking lot No. 3. This is actually planned to get underway this summer as the DDA plans to have Lot 3, located on Third Street Northwest between Morell's Chippewa Trading Post and Harmony Natural Foods Co-op, reconstructed in a new layout with more green space.

- Priority 2: downtown wayfinding. Gateway features and signage would be utilized at community entrances to welcome travelers and identify key attractions and destinations.

- Priority 3: street scape. Enhancements would be made throughout town such as flower baskets, thematic signs and street furniture, to add color and interest to downtown.

- Priority 4: transit. A plan would be for customers to and from the south shore redevelopment to eliminate parking and traffic issues and enhance foot traffic.

- Priority 5: pathways. Existing paths to parking and key downtown features would be improved to enhance pedestrian traffic.

- Priority 6: Lake Bemidji waterfront/Paul and Babe area. Improvements would be made to enhance to area's usability, aesthetics and linkage to downtown.

- Priority 7: facade improvements. Improvements made to define the character of downtown, restore historic ties and establish complementary, yet diverse, storefronts.

- Priority 8: gateway structure. Establish a welcoming gateway feature to downtown.

- Priority 9: parking lot No. 4. Construct a parking lot to service downtown employees and customers.

- Priority 10: south downtown revitalization. Convert the south downtown (the railroad corridor) into a vital district with new uses and attractions.

The plan by the DDA included a timeline for the projects, ranging from this year, until five years from now. Possible funding sources also were identified.

No action was taken during Monday's work session by the City Council, according to City Manager John Chattin.