A vision for downtown Blue Earth
The members of the Street Committee of the city of Blue Earth surprised me last Monday night when they met and discussed the plans for next summer’s two-blocks of Main Street reconstruction project.
At a previous meeting the group had obviously discussed some of the factors of the work that will cover Main Street from Fifth to Seventh streets, as well as the block of Sixth Street between Main and Nicollet streets.
At Monday’s meeting city engineer Wes Brown presented a possible plan for the project that included stamped or colored concrete areas in part of the sidewalks as well as in the crosswalks and bump-outs at each corner of the four intersections involved in the project area.
They discussed the pros and cons of these ideas.
Obviously, there is more expense for doing these things. But, the increase is due to the colored or stamped concrete, not the bump-outs. Whether the designated area in the project is paved with bituminous for a street, or concreted for a sidewalk, the cost difference is not great, Brown told the committee. In fact, it could be less for the sidewalks.
He also said the cost increase for using stamped concrete (which could look like paver blocks) or using actual paver blocks themselves, is virtually the same.
There is also the issue of snow removal and semi trucks making right hand turns around bump-outs. But somehow the hundreds of other towns in the Midwest with bump-outs have made the adjustments.
Trucks can avoid right hand turns by driving one or two more blocks before turning. Snow can be moved using smaller equipment.
Several of the committee members spoke in favor of recommending to the full City Council that these ideas be incorporated into the Main Street plans.
They discussed how this should be looked at as an economic development issue, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to boost business in Blue Earth and make the downtown more attractive.
In other words, they had a vision for the downtown area and I for one applaud them for it.
The committee also spent some time discussing streetlights with Tim Stoner of Blue Earth Light and Water. He gave the committee three options of lights and most of the members favored two different decorative styles of lights.
They even asked the four members of the public who were in attendance at the meeting which of the styles they preferred, and a straw vote was taken.
The committee asked Stoner about the cost, and yes, some of the light styles were more expensive than others, but he said not to worry about the cost.
Blue Earth Light and Water pays for the streetlights; they are not part of the overall $2 million cost of the Main Street project.
But, he said, they wanted to get lights that would add to the overall look of a new downtown Blue Earth. And he agreed that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity so they wanted to get it right.
Then he dropped the bombshell that as long as they were going to install new lights in the three blocks of the construction area, they had decided to also do three more blocks of downtown two to the south and one to the north with the same new streetlights.
I have to give kudos and a tip of the editor’s hat to the Street Committee and Tim Stoner and Blue Earth Light and Water for having a vision of what downtown Blue Earth can be, and taking the steps to accomplish it.
Now, of course, the final decision on the plan is yet to be made. The Blue Earth City Council will have to give their OK to it. Faribault County engineer Mark Daly also has to give a stamp of approval to the plan. And then it also has to be sent off to the Minnesota Department of Transportation for their official sign-off on it, as well.
After all, the city, county and the state all have financial interests in this project because Main Street is a designated county/state aid road. So, of course, they all have a say in the project plans.
I only hope they have the same vision for revitalizing downtown Blue Earth that the members of the Street Committee and Blue Earth Light and Water have.
While many of us will have to put up with a big hassle, inconvenience, mess and maybe even loss of business come next summer, the reward could be a whole new look for Main Street.
I sure hope so.