Bridge Square is Northfield’s living room. The public process for planning its future begins Oct. 23

Bridge Square Blog Site Bridge Square press release Oct 18 2013

Last week, the City of Northfield announced on its website and via an emailed press release (PDF) that the public process for creating a master planning update for Bridge Square begins this Wednesday with an open house at the Archer House, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

There’s now a Bridge Square Blog Site. Yes, you can see my fingerprints on it, as I’ve been hired as a contractor (with my Wigley and Associates hat) by the City to handle the online engagement for the project, teaming up with the lead consultant, Stantec Consulting’s John Slack.

Locally Grown - aggregated Bridge Square RSS feed

Here on LoGro, the headlines for all the recent Bridge Square project blog posts will appear in the upper right sidebar.  But like I did when I posted updates on the recently completed Downtown Parking Management Plan, comments are turned off here because the discussion happens there.

I will attach a comment to this blog post whenever there’s a significant update to the project, just as a way of drawing additional attention to it.  There are better ways to stay informed, however. See my post titled Tools for keeping updated on the Bridge Square planning process.

Downtown’s new recycling bins are a win for taxpayers and a lesson on collaboration, persistence, and civic problem-solving

Front: Arlo Cristofaro-Hark, Helen Forsythe, Antonia Cristofaro-Hark, Cliff Martin student welders Eco Gardens co-owner Howie Holt, welding coach student welder student welder

Last week, members of Northfield Transition Youth/YES (Youth Energy Summit) who worked on welding downtown’s new combination recycling/trash bins stopped by my corner office at GBM for a photo.  And they brought a few photos of themselves welding the bins with Eco Gardens co-owner Howie Holt.

In the photo on the left (L to R) are high schoolers Arlo Cristofaro-Hark, Helen Forsythe, Antonia Cristofaro-Hark, and Cliff Martin. Not pictured: Avery Swearer.  Behind them are two of the many adults who were involved in the project: George Kinney and Mary Jo Cristofaro. 

Back in July, I blogged about the arrival of the combination recycling/trash bins downtown.  Three commenters to that post told the story of how the project came to be. Northfield Councilor Betsey Buckheit wrote:

Betsey BuckheitNorthfield Transition Youth/YES developed the project to build recycling bins for downtown because, as Griff has complained, the plastic wheelie bins chained to the trash receptacles weren’t very attractive (and then they disappeared) and to encourage recycling. I believe they had a design competition, but their first design made of wood did not pass muster with the HPC. George Kinney was helping develop the project in its design/initial attempt, but I believe this was as a private citizen and not an EQC project.

The Downtown Streetscape Task Force was moving ahead to buy receptacles much like what has been created, but they cost $1500 apiece. Streetscape was willing, but that’s when Howie stepped in to say — Hey, we can do this cheaper here. I can teach kids to weld, we can cut apart old trash containers and “stretch” them with similar-looking slats. A bit more back and forth on this — keeping recycling dry is a big deal because wet paper, according to Joe Stapf, spoils the lot, so ensuring there were lids on the containers was critical. TJ Heinricy helped by providing old trash receptacles for creating a prototype. Streetscape Task Force worked out the details and is paying for the containers.

And, now they’re beginning to appear on the street. I understand from Howie that he’s got some great youth welding talent, too. The Transition youth, Mary Jo Cristafaro (another adult assistant), and Howie deserve a round of applause for their idea, persistence, and execution. Looks great; saves money.

NDDC’s Ross Currier wrote:

Ross CurrierBetsey, in addition to the much-deserving Joe Stapf and T. J. Heinricy, I think thanks, by name, are due to Bob Will, Chair of the Streetscape Task Force, Steve Edwins, Member of the Heritage Preservation Commission, and Betsey Buckheit, Second Ward Councilor, for walking down to Eco Gardens and checking out Howie’s prototype. They all went the extra mile (okay, maybe it was only half a mile) to give the local option a chance.

Although having a decision-making rubric is a great idea (it can promote fairness and efficiency), it would appear that sometimes it’s a good idea to add a little “common sense” or, for a lack of a better term, subjective valuation to the decision-making process. The decision had been made according to the proper policy/procedure and the process/organization was moving toward timely implementation when Howie basically asked, “Could you give it another minute or so?” and Joe, T. J., Bob, Steve, and Betsey said, “We can give it another minute or so”.

Understandably, it would be a challenge to municipal efficiency (in terms of time and, sometimes, money), if we essentially second-guessed every decision made by a public sector group or entity. However, in this particular example of a sometimes stumbling (or seemingly inefficient), and admittedly stop and go process, reviewing the decision, particularly double-checking both the explicit and implicit values likely to be used by the community to judge the results, before taking irreversible steps to implement the plan, resulted in a better outcome.

City of Northfield Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) member George Kinney wrote:

George KinneyWell deserved credit goes to the stalwarts of Transition Youth/YES, Mary Jo, and Mera Colling, who worked on quite a few designs over the past year and a half or more — lots of prototypes, many false starts, and I think we are so happy that the final design received everyone’s approval. TJ and Howie really came through for the group — helping to find solutions and getting the process moving. It wouldn’t have happened without their help. The group received additional support and encouragement from Northfield in Bloom and Curt Saffle of Waste Management.

As far as the EQC is concerned, we’ve been pushing for permanent downtown recycling options for probably close to 10 years, with Suzie Nakasian being the champion for several years on EQC (and then Planning Commission).

Happy to have had a hand in it.

In August, Jordan Osterman at the Northfield News did a story: Northfield youth group leads the way on recycling in parks, downtown

Thanks to the leadership of a group of Northfield High School and Arcadia Charter School students, along with the help of the community, city workers are now in the process of installing what will eventually be 28 new recycling/garbage bin combos in the downtown area and parks where no recycling bins were previously available.

In October, high school student Logan Regnier produced a video about the project and it’s up on Northfield Patch: Youth, City Collaborate on New Recycling Bins

Recycling bin video by Logan Regnier

And Joe said ‘Let there be tables on Bridge Square.’ And Ross saw the tables and said it was good.

picnic table on Bridge Square, Northfield chained picnic table on Bridge Square, Northfield picnic table on Bridge Square, Northfield 
I was at a meeting of downtown office workers last week, hosted by the NDDC, when the discussion veered towards downtown amenities.  NEC head honcho Megan Tsui brought up the issue of the lack of tables on Bridge Square that would be conducive for both meetings as well as eating.  She said someone from the City once told her that they couldn’t put picnic tables on Bridge Square because pranksters would toss them in the Cannon River.

 Northfield City Engineer/Public Works Director Joe StapfThis little tidbit made its way back to Northfield City Hall and a few days later, NDDC ED Ross Currier told me that two picnic tables magically appeared on Bridge Square, evidently via divine intervention an executive order from City Engineer/Public Works Director Joe Stapf.

Cool. And it makes me hopeful we’ll soon see even better table/bench amenities there that are conducive to meetings, games, socializing, and eating.

(With apologies to the author of the Book of Genesis for my blog post title.)

Another problem solved by the City of Northfield’s Engineering Dept: a new curb cut on Jefferson Parkway

Back in late May, I blogged about Roosevelt Drive’s new sidewalk and at the end of the post, wrote:

Jefferson Park trail at Jefferson ParkwayOne thing that still puzzles me, however, is the end of the trail that goes through Jefferson Park. It connects to the sidewalk but across the street, there’s a sign on the north side of Jefferson Parkway that says “TRAIL ROUTE” with a 90 degree arrow. If the intent is to signal people that now on-street walking/biking is required, it seems like there should be a curb cut there where a section of the sidewalk was just replaced.  Or am I confused?

George Kinney reported that he’d brought it to the attention of City Engineer Joe Stapf and about a week ago, I got CC’d on an email from George to Joe:

Thank you, Joe and TJ!  From a distance, I saw a crew working yesterday at the Parkway entrance to Jeff Park, and hoped it was the trail/street completion. I rode past at 5:30 this morning, and it looks great! Now I won’t have to try to jump the curb. :-)

Joe replied:

Actually, it was Sean Simonson and Steve Bennett from the Engineering Department,  working thru the Street Improvements project contractor, Heselton Construction, and their concrete subcontractor, who made this happen.  I will pass on your thanks.

curb cut, Jefferson Park trail at Jefferson Parkway curb cut, Jefferson Park trail at Jefferson Parkway
I rode my bike on the trail yesterday and indeed, it’s just like George said. Cool.  I love it when City staff pays attention to citizens on small stuff like this and quickly gets things done.

Subscribe and Follow LoGro

Subscribe to the blog via email (daily) Subscribe to the blog via RSS Subscribe to the Locally Grown e-newsletter (weekly)
Follow us on Twitter Visit our Picasaweb photo gallery Like us on Facebook

Blog Monthly Archives

Blog Category Archives