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Cass Lake downtown to get extreme makeover

Beginning this summer, Cass Lake's downtown area -- Main Street and Grant Utley -- will begin a Streetscape Project. New sewer and water lines, pavement, sidewalks, lighting, benches, bicycle racks, concrete planters, trash receptacles and boulev...

Beginning this summer, Cass Lake's downtown area -- Main Street and Grant Utley -- will begin a Streetscape Project.

New sewer and water lines, pavement, sidewalks, lighting, benches, bicycle racks, concrete planters, trash receptacles and boulevard trees will give the town a new look, said Darren Laesch of the Bemidji office of Widseth Smith Nolting, the engineering firm Cass Lake contracted with for the project.

"This is going to be phased in over the next two years," Laesch said. "We'll be doing the underground work this year and the streetscape next year."

He said the work will begin in July.

Pat Singleton, chairwoman of the MIRACLE Group of Cass Lake, said the volunteers organized about 14 years ago. She said the members brought in the Minnesota Design Team in 1998 to asses the community's needs. The team recommended the Downtown Streetscape Project.

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"It's taken this long to get the funding to get everything done," said Singleton.

Members of the Cass Lake community, and anyone else interested in the project and seeing what the future Cass Lake will look like, are invited to an informational open house from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at the Cass Lake American Legion. The evening will include a free dinner, courtesy of the MIRACLE Group, and door prizes, as well as an overview and the engineer's drawings of the city improvements.

Laesch, Cass Lake Mayor Wayne LaDuke and members of the Streetscape Planning Committee will be available to answer questions and hear input from those attending.

Singleton said the funding for the project, $1.3 million, is from a federal grant obtained by the work of Congressman Jim Oberstar, D-Minnesota.

She acknowledged that there are several empty storefronts in downtown Cass Lake, but said, "We're hoping that the improvements of the streets will bring more business."

Laesch agreed, saying, "This will give it a facelift and hopefully open new doors for development."

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