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Dreaming about a new downtown

From the Editor's Notebook

February 9, 2014
by Chuck Hunt - Register Editor (chunt@faribaultcountyregister.com) , Faribault County Register

I have a dream.

(With apologies to Dr. Martin Luther King.)

The people of Blue Earth are suddenly becoming aware there are two blocks of downtown (Fifth to Seventh streets) which will be totally ripped up and reconstructed next summer, 2015.

Actually, this project has been on the radar for several years now. But, as the actual date of the work approaches, it has suddenly become all too real.

Yes, two blocks of downtown's Main Street will be blocked off, a detour will be in place, customers will have to use the back doors into businesses and it will be a mess all summer.

Just like Highway 169 was last year.

While the underground utility work will be done by the city of Blue Earth and Blue Earth Light and Water, the actual reconstruction is a Faribault County Highway Department project using county, state and even federal funds.

The reason for this is, Blue Earth's Main Street is actually a county-state aid highway. The county engineer is the one of charge of the eventual design of the street and sidewalks.

And yes, there is a pretty good chance there will be fewer parking spaces in those two blocks of downtown. Business owners are none to happy about that fact.

They will be able to voice their opinions at a meeting to be held on Feb. 19 at the Public Safety Center.

However, there are no definite plans drawn up at this time. There is still time for input from the city, citizens and perhaps even the local newspaper editor.

Because, I have a dream.

I have a dream that these two blocks of downtown can become a focal point for a revitalization of Blue Earth.

I have a dream that instead of just having a downtown of plain paved streets, stark concrete sidewalks and old brick buildings, something new and innovative can be done to the downtown of Faribault County's largest city.

I have a dream that sidewalks don't have to be just white cement. That colors and bricks can break up the stark look of concrete. Streets can have clearly painted crosswalks and bike lanes.

I have a dream that green trees, shrubs and flowers can decorate the downtown area. That benches, outdoor tables and chairs can become part of a 'greenscape' type of landscape.

I have a dream that we can even incorporate the Green Giant, or perhaps his sidekick the Sprout, into the design of a new downtown.

I have a dream that we won't just be concerned about how many parking spaces for automobiles there will be downtown, but how many places for pedestrians to walk, bikers to pedal and shoppers to stroll or rest we can have.

I have a dream we can develop off-street parking areas for those vehicles, and pathways for the drivers of those cars perhaps several empty lots can be used for more parking.

I have a dream that downtown can be remade, become beautiful and attractive. You may think those two words beautiful and attractive are redundant, but they are not. I mean 'attractive' in the term of 'attracting' new businesses and customers who will want to come to downtown Blue Earth because it is a beautifully renovated area for retail, restaurants and the arts.

I have a dream.

And, I am not the only one.

There are two committees of local folks who have been thinking this same way. One is a subcommittee of the city, which helped with these same types of ideas for the Highway 169 project. They helped keep walking paths on both sides of the highway and assisted with choosing the landscape of the roundabouts.

Another group is concerned with creating safe places to bike and walk in Blue Earth, including the downtown area. They are the Active Living Coalition.

Both have already created ideas and plans as to what downtown Blue Earth could look like.

Now, it just remains to be seen if any of those ideas can be incorporated into next summer's project. And whether funds can be found to finance these ideas.

Because some of these dreams will not be cheap to do. There will be an added cost.

Will we end up with a plain pavement and concrete look?

Or will we, as the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce slogan says, "Dream Big?"

Only time will tell.

 
 

 

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