Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 3, 2004

Downtown revitalization plan in the works for Winsted

By Ryan Gueningsman

What will Winsted look like 10 years, 20 years, or even 30 years down the road?

The City of Winsted is working with The Minnesota Design Team to develop a vision for Winsted’s future.

A downtown renewal commission was formed several months ago, and has met three times, according to City Administrator Brent Mareck. The committee is working on getting an application ready to submit to the Minnesota Design Team.

The city heard about the Minnesota Design Team through Hometown Minnesota, which recommended a Minnesota Design Team visit. Several representatives from the organization spoke at the Winsted Area Chamber of Commerce meeting in March.

The application process is almost complete, however Winsted’s downtown renewal committee is asking for letters of support from the community for the project.

Letters should include some of the following: support of renewal in downtown Winsted, project(s) that could occur/develop, the need for the Minnesota Design Team to work in Winsted, and willingness to participate in the event.

Letters will be accepted until Thursday, May 6, and can be dropped off at the city hall, or mailed to City of Winsted, PO Box 126, Winsted, MN 55395.

The next Downtown Renewal Commission meeting will be Monday, May 10 at the city hall at 6 p.m.

What does a design team visit entail?

The Minnesota Design Team is a group of planners, architects, designers, and other professionals that help small cities with grass roots efforts to “get things started,” according to literature sent out by the city.

The group coordinates efforts to revitalize areas within communities. The only fees from the design team are its expenses while in town.

A visit from the design team includes a stay in Winsted for three days with host families in the community. Throughout their stay, the members would participate in community meetings, information sharing sessions, potluck meals, and a celebration of the completed project and vision for downtown Winsted.

Outlined in a draft application for the Minnesota Design Team are three current issues Winsted is dealing with.

Utilization of Winsted Lake’s shoreline, which is currently used mainly for parking. The buildings on First Street North all face away from the lake, and businesses do not use the lake for any sort of amenity to the business, and the area continues to be a “glorified alley with ample parking,” it was noted.

Blight problems in the city is also a concern of the downtown renewal committee, and it was noted that some buildings have been deteriorating.

The economy is a factor, however, a lack of a long-range plan and vision for the area has led to a “hodgepodge of images,” according to the draft application.

A vision and goal needs to be put in place and implemented for these buildings to spur the development of the blighted buildings.

The last issue brought up was the utilization of trails and pedestrian traffic.

Winsted does not lend itself to pedestrian traffic, according to the draft application. The natural features of the area would make increased pedestrian traffic an asset to the community.

However, Winsted has no short- or long-term plans for trail development in the city. Increased trail use may funnel people into the downtown area.

By having the Minnesota Design Team come to Winsted for a weekend, a long-term plan can be established for certain issues like these and others, Mareck noted.

Since 1983, the design team has visited more than 80 communities, helping them as they evolved their shared visions. The team usually comes into town on a Thursday night, and leaves Sunday.

For more information about the Minnesota Design Team, contact the city at (320) 485-2366, or go to www.minnesotadesignteam.org.

Mareck noted that if the application is approved and all goes well, the Minnesota Design Team could be in Winsted this fall.

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