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Bemidji Downtown Alliance discusses city improvement options with Bemidji City Council

Representatives from the Bemidji Downtown Alliance met with the Bemidji City Council during its work session on Monday, Sept. 12, to provide an update on the organization’s projects and initiatives.

Bemidji City Hall
Bemidji City Hall. Pioneer file photo
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BEMIDJI — Representatives from the Bemidji Downtown Alliance met with the Bemidji City Council during its work session on Monday, Sept. 12, to provide an update on the organization’s projects and initiatives.

A nonprofit organization that works to enhance the city's downtown area, the BDA is predominantly made up of representatives from downtown businesses and has worked on a variety of efforts through the years to promote the area.

The meeting with the city council served as an opportunity to discuss concerns and the potential for future partnerships between the BDA and the city.

“We just thought this was a good opportunity to re-identify ourselves with the council,” said BDA co-chair Scott Turn.

The conversation during the session revolved around three principal topics: parking, safety and downtown beautification.

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Parking, which has been raised as an issue in downtown Bemidji for years, was the first item to be discussed.

“I’m sure all of you hear this often about parking, it’s an issue here,” Turn said. “How can we identify some other opportunities in our downtown to find some more parking?”

Turn and the council discussed the feasibility of different parking options, including whether it would be possible to convert more parallel parking streets into diagonal parking.

“I know that’s something that’s been talked about. Is that something that is feasible again, based on codes and everything?” Turn asked.

He also brought up the cost of parking permits, which the BDA manages for downtown lots, and whether the prices should be increased.

Currently, the prices for the permits range from $75 to $155 and last one year. The funds raised from these go to the city for parking lot maintenance.

Another topic was the idea of a parking study, a project that has been discussed before, that could examine the need for parking, appropriate costs and what strategies could be pursued to address those concerns.

“I think it is a really good time to look at that. We would just like to be a part of that process,” Turn said.

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Public safety and the possibility of increasing police patrols downtown, especially during the busy summer months, was also brought up.

In the past, officers have been assigned bike and foot patrols downtown, but this has decreased recently as the police department is facing staffing shortages.

“We definitely want to bring that back, but that takes full shifts,” Police Chief Mike Mastin explained.

The final topic Turn brought to the council was efforts toward downtown beautification. For Turn, this included bringing up the potential for the BDA to partner with the city in acquiring a summer intern to help keep the downtown area well-maintained.

He also said the BDA is looking into ways to spruce up the kiosks downtown, potentially using them for advertising businesses and events.

“We’ll have to do some exploring to even see if it’s feasible. Either way, they need to be polished up,” Turn said. “I think collectively we could work better together toward some of these things.”

The topics brought forward by the BDA to the council during the meeting will be kept in mind as the potential for future partnerships is examined and plans to enhance and promote downtown Bemidji continues.

“We’re very blessed as a city to have as active and vibrant of a downtown as we do,” said Mayor Jorge Prince. “We know that many other cities aren’t as fortunate.”

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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