We have recently finalized the new concept plan for downtown Annandale. It is the document that highlights our quest to provide solutions for helping create an exciting downtown that promotes a positive business environment and a flurry of positive activity while looking and feeling amazing.
Why this is important
One of the biggest things a small town gets judged on is the look, feel, and viability of its downtown. A downtown that looks great and has a ton of activity is naturally more appealing and interesting. It shows the town has something to offer other than being a bedroom community. It spurs economic activity. It shows strength. It shows unity. It gives us pride as community members.
Having a great looking and functional downtown is an important tool in providing a nicer place to live, work, and play. Every day, we are in competition with neighboring communities. Great people and businesses that are on the move are going to reside somewhere. They have many choices within the area. Attracting new residents and businesses into our community is vital to the health of our local economy, schools, and organizations. Fortunately, we already have a viable downtown and that gives us an advantage that most small towns don’t have.
However, our unique canopy system is showing major signs of distress. They’re becoming an eyesore and a hazard. Our downtown businesses and property owners are wanting and needing a better environment that provides more opportunity. Our parking within the area is starting to show signs of inadequacy. Finally, we have some major infrastructure challenges that need to be addressed sooner than later. This includes our sewer and water utilities that are a hundred years old and our sidewalks which are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant with the upcoming MnDot resurfacing of Oak and Park Streets in 2020.
Our downtown has a number of challenges and now is the time to confront them.
What is being done
For the past couple of years, groups of volunteers, business owners and leaders, residents, benefactors and the city council have been intensely working on solutions for the issues mentioned above.
Last spring, we conducted a public meeting for all businesses and residents interested in what can be done with downtown. We gathered valuable input which set the direction of where we needed to go with a concept.
Since then, we’ve assessed deficiencies, needs, and wants. We’ve asked questions, developed ideas, combined similar thoughts, and discussed differences. We’ve studied our downtown’s history while learning about modern design and logistics. We’ve worked with planners, architects, engineers and all governing agencies who have helped us transform our efforts into a workable concept.
Today, the concept plan is now complete and now it’s time to move forward.
What we know for sure
Whether a downtown revitalization project materializes or not, MnDot will be rebuilding Oak Avenue and Park Street in 2020. They will be resurfacing the streets and installing new curb, gutter, and sidewalk. This is a unique opportunity to combine projects and share costs.
The canopies will have to be removed in order to meet MnDot design standards, satisfy the mandated ADA regulations, and provide the downtown businesses greater opportunity for front-walk utilization, signage, and facade aesthetics. In fact, a few of the canopies will be removed this Spring due to safety and code issues.
It is the desire to install decorative sidewalks with bump outs, decorative crosswalks, landscaping, and other structural amenities. This will provide a more open street corridor which improves and attracts pedestrian traffic.
There is a general desire to continue the unique benefit of a themed and cohesive downtown similar to what the canopies have provided over the past 40-years. Therefore, we are proposing a decorative awning system that will provide the business owners a more attractive and lower cost alternative in which they have more control in implementing and maintaining.
Even though we have conducted an immense amount research, the exact detailed design components, construction materials to be used, costs, and timelines will not be available until the Fall of 2018. We are merely in the concept phase at this time.
What happens next
Before we can consider this an official project we need to all feel good about the concept and the direction we are going. Therefore, over the next few weeks, we will be presenting, educating, and promoting the concept via various formats mentioned below.
- 7pm, Wednesday, April 11, 2018 (City Hall) – Presentation of Concept Plan to Downtown Business and Property Owners Only.
- Saturday, April 14 (Annandale High School) – Concept to be displayed at the Annandale Expo at the City of Annandale booth.
- 6pm, Tuesday, May 1, 2018 – MnDot Open House on 2020 Street Project for the general public. This meeting will focus more on MnDot’s proposed street project and less on the downtown canopies, awnings, and streetscape.
- 7pm, Monday, May 7, 2018 – Presentation of Concept Plan to City Council and general public.
Once the concept plan is approved, the city council can start the implementation phase. This includes prioritizing design components and amenities based on value and cost, finalizing what infrastructure needs to be repaired or replaced, prepare plans and specifications, research funding sources, determine actual costs to all involved, develop construction timelines, and develop phasing plans to lower the impact on the downtown businesses and residents.
When the detailed designs are completed, costs are calculated, and timelines estimated there will be additional public hearings and meetings the Summer and Fall of 2018 before this project is considered by the city council.
A tremendous amount of input, time, and work has been performed by a great deal of amazing people to provide a solution and we all understand this is an exciting, yet sensitive, project. It affects a great deal of hard working people. But one thing is clear, this project needs to occur in order for Annandale to remain relevant over the coming decades.