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Bemidji Downtown Alliance focused on two projects: Gateway arch, music series are top priorities in 2016 for BDA

BEMIDJI -- As momentum builds for the area it represents, the Bemidji Downtown Alliance is looking forward to a busy year.

Following its annual meeting Tuesday, the new president of the BDA, Colleen Bakken, said the downtown district of Bemidji feels more and more lively as time has passed.

"What we're seeing in the last couple of years is the downtown becoming more vibrant and more diverse. Having different retails and services, and becoming more and more active," Bakken said. "We're feeling the energy picking up, and we don't see that slowing down."

The plan now for the BDA is to expand on that energy, Bakken said, and to do so the organization has planned both a brick and mortar project, as well as an entertainment series for 2016 and beyond.

The entertainment series is an eight week event where from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday evenings, live music will be played on Lake Bemidji.

The series, titled “Mississippi Music at the Bemidji Waterfront” will go from July 6-Aug. 31 and will feature performances from various bands.

"The music series is something that has been done in other cities, and it provides another venue for people to come into town and enjoy some music for the summer," Bakken said. "It's also utilizing one of the fun resources we have in Bemidji: That our lakeside is right next to our downtown. It's a wonderful resource and layout that we have, so we said 'let's utilize that.'"

The brick and mortar project, meanwhile, is to build a gateway arch over Third Street NW  across from the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox Statues.

The budget for the project is $75,000, with the BDA raising $32,750 and the city providing funding for 50 percent of the project cost -- with financing not to exceed $40,000. The BDA will also be applying for a $5,000 grant for the project.

"Our mission is to enhance downtown, and we have been doing that through memberships and serving different businesses," Bakken said. "We looked at what's on the horizon and what needs to be done in continuing that mission and certainly the gateway arch project falls into that category."

The BDA is aiming to have fundraising finished by September, and the plan would then be to construct the archway in 2017.