A key portion of the city’s Journey to 2040 plan, its Downtown Master Plan — an ambitious remake of the downtown area, with more housing, development and public spaces — got another once over from the City Council.
At July’s Joint Work Session, City Planner Dave Wanberg gave the council a second draft of the proposed plan. He encouraged councilors to provide more specific feedback on Tuesday after only one member of the council, Jonathan Wood, provided written feedback to the proposal.
The Downtown Master Plan is one of three parts of the Journey to 2040 plan. The other two standalone, but coordinated plans, are the Parks, Trails and Open Space Plan, and the Comprehensive Plan Update.
Wanberg said the proposal has already played a role in bringing several new business projects to downtown Faribault. He and other city officials envision a downtown area that carefully preserves Faribault’s rich historical charm and pleasing landscapes while adding new development to meet the needs of the community in the 21st century.
Along Central Avenue, the city estimates that one in five storefronts are either vacant or, in the city’s words, have been “converted to unsupportive use,” adding little value to the area. In order to better utilize downtown space, the city is working with Minneapolis-based architects Perkins+Will.
While Faribault’s downtown has traditionally been home to industry, many industrial businesses have moved away from the historic district. The downtown master plan is designed to replace industrial/retail facilities with housing and amenities, addressing Faribault’s housing shortage.
In order to accommodate the increased housing, the city is focused on increasing walkability and adding bicycle routes, and greening up downtown with extra parks and green spaces. The city hopes to utilize the Straight River to bring amenities to downtown. A centerpiece of the Downtown Master Plan is the addition of sprawling park facilities to accommodate what the city hopes will be an influx of new residents, especially young families, moving into the downtown area.
The City Council was particularly interested in how existing park space at Teepee Tonka could be utilized. Among the amenities the city envisions are a boat rental and launch, beaches, picnic shelter, a footbridge and an “adventure park” with a skate park, climbing wall, zip line and splash pad. The “adventure park” proposal is similar to plans the city worked on with developer Kevin McMenamy of KPM Enterprises before terminating a preliminary agreement last year.
Councilor Janna Viscomi emphasized that she’d like to see more trails connecting the downtown area with the rest of the city. In particular, she was disappointed by the lack of a connection between the proposed downtown park space and River Bend Nature Center.
“I think that’s really important,” said Viscomi. “We’ve got city trails, but we’re still not really truly connected.”
Wanberg and city staff hope to bring a more refined version of the draft plan to the City Council next month. They want to bring not only the council but the community on board with the vision.
“We’ve been working on this for a year and a half,” said Wanberg. We want this to be a good plan, a plan that works for everybody.”