Brainerd has a blueprint for the restoration of downtown.
The Brainerd City Council Monday, by a 4-0 vote, adopted a downtown master plan presented by Brainerd Restoration. Council members Mark O'Day, Lucy Nesheim and Gary Scheeler were absent.
Components of the master plan are: creating downtown connections with trails, including the creation of a dual set of trails on and near Front Street as well as parking places along the trails; developing Laurel Street with a historic look; creating more parking by using diagonal spaces; creating a safer environment by bringing more people to downtown; creating gateways to downtown on Washington Street; creating housing in and around downtown Brainerd. Also proposed in the master plan would be the creation of medians on South Sixth Street and on Washington Street.
There also would be smaller projects to return not only a friendly look to downtown, but a historic one, too. Decorative fencing, informational kiosks, outside seating, better street lighting, hanging baskets, planters, directional signs, business banners, building facades and trees have all been discussed.
Downtown renovation would be done in stages, said John Erickson, president of Brainerd Restoration and co-chair. He suggested starting points would be Laurel Street reconstruction and the Front Street trails, and the creation of a town square on the current Brainerd City Hall parking lot. "The town square is the heart of the heart," said Erickson. The idea is to create a community center, a place where people would be able to live and shop all within walking distance, said Erickson.
"We want to create an environment that's attractive to invest in, attractive to live in, attractive to work in and ultimately an environment that's attractive to come to," said Erickson.
The master plan was developed by the architect firm Damon Farber and Associates, the same firm that developed the downtown canal park in Duluth.
As Brainerd Restoration is a non-profit group, funding for projects could come from donations, and the group is already seeking state and federal grants. The group also is seeking to create a historic preservation district for downtown Brainerd, clearing the way for further funds.
"I look at it as an investment," said council member Bob Olson. "We as a council are going to have to have a lot of political will and make decisions that may be unpopular to a few."
The master plan is the result of public hearings held since July.
The council directed the city's departments to provide input, and directed City Administrator Dan Vogt to set up discussion with Brainerd Restoration.
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