Task Force Begins Work on Downtown Revitalization Efforts
ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- A group of people committed to revitalizing downtown St. Cloud has been busy moving that vision forward.
The Downtown Revitalization Task Force has about 16 members who all have a stake in a strong downtown.
Greg Windfeldt is heading the task force. He says the downtown already has really good restaurants, theaters, bars, hotels and the convention center, but it just needs focus and attention.
Restaurants and retail, they can't support a downtown themselves. Office, we've seen what's happening with office space, that can't be the only thing to be downtown. What we need is a mix. What's not happening downtown is housing, we need to build housing.
Mixed-use developments better utilizing the surface parking lots seem to be the best option for creating more housing.
Windfeldt says despite the common perception, there is already ample parking downtown, more than any other community our size.
He says the executive committee of the task force recently toured Fargo's downtown which was in much worse shape than our downtown 20 years ago. Since then they've built 1,600 new apartment units.
Windfeldt says the proven formula for rebuilding a downtown is to start first with rental housing, then add entertainment options and public facilities like an arena, and lastly purchasable residential properties.
Windfeldt also sees great potential for St. Cloud's east side. He compares the corridor along East St. Germain Street to Duluth's West End.
If you were to look at what's called West End in Duluth it was probably a lot worse than our east side, and then Bent Paddle came in, and there's new bars and restaurants, and Duluth Tap is over there. Now it's just an absolutely vibrant area.
Windfeldt says with Iron Street Distillery and Harvester Square already open, the revitalization of the east side is already underway.
He says the biggest challenge to making the downtown more walkable is barriers like Highway 23, the railroad tracks, and the Mississippi River. He'd like to see funding dedicated to creating a pedestrian bridge over Division Street.
He says there's no specific timeline but cautions it will be a long process. From concept to construction development projects can take up to four years.
The city will be asking the State Legislature for $100 million in bonding money to help pay for revitalization projects.
Windfeldt says while we used to have a need to create more jobs for this area, now the issue is reversed and we need more people to fill the open positions. He says in order to attract more people to this area we need amenities like a vibrant downtown.
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