Bemidij downtown study plans presented
A downtown is the fingerprint of the community, said Martin Shukert with RDG Planning and Design. Shukert and Cory Scott from RDG made a public presentation Thursday night explaining the process they are undertaking for Bemidji's downtown market ...
A downtown is the fingerprint of the community, said Martin Shukert with RDG Planning and Design.
Shukert and Cory Scott from RDG made a public presentation Thursday night explaining the process they are undertaking for Bemidji's downtown market study.
The market study, which is expected to take about nine months to complete, will examine the traditional downtown and the south shore redevelopment area. It also will look at connections to Lake Bemidji and the "isthmus," or Paul Bunyan Drive between the traditional downtown and Hampton Inn.
"For Bemidji to undertake this kind of transformational project is really an amazing thing," said Shukert, the project principal.
A successful study will result in a stronger downtown, he said.
"Our goal is to compliment the traditional downtown," Shukert said, explaining that development of the south shore should not compete with the traditional downtown area.
The nine-month study is planned to encourage public participation, he noted. The public can track progress of the study online at www.rdgusa.com/crp/bemidji .
For now, however, Shukert and Scott are asking the public to go online and fill out a downtown survey. The deadline for completion of the survey is May 1.
Shukert highlighted several aspects of the market study, such as the need to examine the economy of downtown, its physical environmental, marketing potential, and to also look at areas that could be improved, such as Union Square.
Additionally, the study will consider the downtown in relationship to Lake Bemidji and how the two could better be connected to one another, he said.
Lake Bemidji is a great asset for the city, but "the highway is a significant separator," Shukert said.
The isthmus is problematic because it feels a bit like "no man's land," he said, explaining that drivers traverse between traditional downtown and the south shore area via an unusual land bridge.
"Making that connection is going to be a critical part of this plan," Shukert said.
But, any plans that are developed for downtown must remain true to the Bemidji's spirit, he added.
"The City Center must grow out of the unique character of the city," he said.
Shukert presented a timeline in which the entire study would be complete and set for City Council adoption by the end of 2008. Throughout the process meetings and open houses are planned to invite public involvement and input.
"It's aggressive, but we need to be aggressive," he said.
Shukert also presented slides and pictures from past projects that RDG has completed. Ranging from the large - Oklahoma City - to the small - Park Rapids - the completed studies offered a glimpse into the type of work that RDG has done.
About 20 members of the public attended Thursday's presentation. One participant told Shukert that it seemed as if he already decided that investing more money and planning into downtown was a foregone conclusion.
What happens if after the research and study it is determined that investing downtown is not recommended, he asked.
"There are few absolutes in life," Shukert said. "The one absolute in city planning is that the downtown of a community is critical."
He conceded that there are some small, ghost-like towns in which there is little to nothing that can be done for their downtowns' survival.
"But they're few and far between," Shukert said. "This downtown is not one of those."