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.

Combination recycling/trash bins debut downtown. Nice!

recycling/trash bins in downtown Northfield recycling/trash bins in downtown Northfield recycling/trash bins in downtown Northfield  members of Northfield Transition Youth/YES (Youth Energy Summit); Earth Day 2011 photo
I’ve been whining about the ugly recycling bins in downtown Northfield for two years (here and here). Last week two classy-looking combination recycling/trash bins made their appearance on Division St., one by the Northfield Library, the other by the Armory.  More bins are coming.

Props to members of Northfield Transition Youth/YES (Youth Energy Summit), City of Northfield Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) member George Kinney, Northfield Street and Park supervisor TJ Heinricy, Eco Gardens co-owner Howie Holt, and members of the Downtown Streetscape Task Force.

Let’s put some game tables in downtown Northfield

game tables in NYC DSC01661 DSC01735
DSC01729 DSC01731 DSC01727
I was struck by the popularity of game tables in New York City’s parks when I visited there last week. People gather around the tables to watch some of the games, too. Others use the tables as a place to meet and eat. The benches on either side of the tables have backs on them, making them more comfortable for sitting than picnic tables.

I’d like to see the Streetscape Task Force spend some of its remaining money to put game tables with benches in downtown along River Walk, the Sesqui Plaza, and maybe Bridge Square.

Sidewalk poetry: is it worth $12,000 of taxpayer money?

Sidewalk poetry installation, Northfield Sidewalk poetry installation, Northfield Poem by Lily Hanlon Poem by Anne Running Sovik
I missed the imprinting of the sidewalk poems yesterday morning so see the short Nfld News video here and the story with more photos at Nfld Patch:  Northfield Sidewalk Poetry Installation

The first two pieces of sidewalk poetry were imprinted in the sidewalks (one on Third Street and another on Division Street) around the Northfield Public Library on Wednesday morning.

They included a piece from Lily Hanlon, a Prairie Creek Community School student, and Anne Running Sovik. These are selections from the first sidewalk public poetry contest from last year, which was sponsored by the Arts & Culture Commission and the Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library. More poems from the 2011 selections will be imprinted at a later date.

I chatted with Library Director Lynne Young as I was taking photos and asked her about the funding for the project. She said that the Northfield Streetscape Task Force contributed $5,000 last year and that the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC) awarded a grant this year. I see on the SEMAC page of recent grants that the

City of Northfield Arts & Culture Commission received a $7,100 Arts & Cultural Heritage grant for Sidewalk Public Poetry Project.

"Arts & Cultural Heritage grant" is Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment money. Not counted in the total is City of Northfield staff time (public works, engineering).

I love public art and I think sidewalk poetry is cool.  But I think it’s worth discussing whether $12,000 of taxpayer money for this project is a good investment. I’m undecided.

Update May 22: Some additional photos:

Sidewalk poetry installation, Northfield new sidewalk devoid of poety 

Left: I don’t understand why only one poem was installed in this new section.

Right: This section of sidewalk appear to be relatively new. Why weren’t poems installed here?

Howie and Jeni’s downtown gem: Eco Gardens

Jeni and Howie Holt, Eco Gardens  Eco Gardens, Northfield, MN 
Eco Gardens opened two years ago this month in the old Tires Plus site at 6th  Division (blog post here).  Last summer, proprietors Howie and Jeni Holt revamped the exterior in a big way (see Ross Currier’s June 30th blog post, NDDC Board Visits ECO Gardens).

Old Tires Plus site, Northfield Old Tires Plus site, Northfield
That location has been transformed since Tires Plus moved out, first by Lee Lansing and his Garden Center and now by the Holts, with a little help from a matching grant from the Streetscape Task Force.

Downtown street signs upgraded. Is it the work of the Streetscape Task Force?

Last Friday,  I got this email and photo from Steve Wilmot:

downtown street sign removal photo by Steve WilmotGriff,

We may have some confused tourists today as all the street signs for Division Street appear to be in the back of this City truck.

Thought you would find this interesting.

DSC07900 DSC07899 DSC07902 DSC07903

DSC07904 DSC07905 DSC07906 DSC07907

I took these photos over the weekend, assuming that the signage replacement was part of the Streetscape Task Force‘s downtown beautification efforts. The brackets used to hold up the signs appears to be consistent with the the other iron work used for the wayfinding signs, for example.

But maybe not. In the March 2 Admin Memo, TJ Heinricy, Streets and Parks Supervisor reports:

Staff has been preparing street identification signage that will be installed soon. These signs are part of the ongoing street signage replacement project.

USPS puts Northfield Post Office building on sale for $845,000. Now what?

Northfield US Post Office building for sale

The government’s listing for the Northfield Post Office building reads:

14 Bridge Square, Northfield, Minnesota represents a unique opportunity to purchase a unique and beautiful former US Postal Service facility. The building is a 9,708 SF and is located on 0.53 acres. This architecturally distinct building was built in 1936 and sits prominently in the historic center of Northfield. The property includes 15 surface stalls in the off-street parking lot.

The realtor is Chris Gliedman, CBRE, based in Mpls.

The Northfield Roundtable held two planning sessions last week, focused on Bridge Square.  The notes from that day are not yet available but see the Feb. 4 Nfld News: Northfield Roundtable focuses on Bridge Square. According to the article, these were some ideas generated at Friday’s session that were Post Office-related:

The downtown post office could be turned into a Northfield Business Center, serving as an incubator and housing the Chamber, NDDC and NEC, along with small shops.

By tying Bridge Square with the service areas and alleys surrounding the post office building and the buildings facing Division Street, all properties on the block could be on the river.

Should the Downtown Streetscape Taskforce buy it, since a year ago, the City Council rejected its recommendation to purchase the rental property at 304 Washington St. for a parking lot at a cost of $760,000?

Two bike repair stations installed in downtown Northfield

Back in June, 2011, I blogged about St. Olaf’s new bike repair stations and that we needed something like them in downtown Northfield. In mid-August, I commented: "Ross Currier told me this week that the Downtown Streetscape Task Force is considering installing one of these bicycle repair stations."

bike repair station in downtown Northfield bike repair station in downtown Northfield
Yesterday, two bike repair stands were installed, one at 5th and Division under the stairs of the McClaughry Building, the other at the Division St. entrance to the Northfield Library. Each bike repair stand (Dero Fixit) includes an air pump with a gauge, and seven tools, all tethered with security cables.  You can hang your bike on the stand by its seat post so you can more easily work on it.

Props to Ross Currier and members of the Downtown Streetscape Task Force for shifting some money to do this, to TJ Heinricy and his crew at the City of Northfield Streets, Parks & Facilities Divisions for getting them installed before spring, and to Jim Fisher, Grounds Manager at St. Olaf, for bringing this concept to Northfield.

Downtown Northfield hit with another graffiti outbreak

graffiti in downtown Northfield MN graffiti in downtown Northfield MN graffiti in downtown Northfield MN

graffiti in downtown Northfield MN graffiti in downtown Northfield MN graffiti in downtown Northfield MN

graffiti in downtown Northfield MN graffiti in downtown Northfield MN graffiti in downtown Northfield MN
Several downtown locations (businesses and public spaces) were tagged with graffiti over the weekend. I’m not sure when it happened. The last time there was a big outbreak was in March of 2008.

We discussed the graffiti ordinance in depth here on LoGro in March, 2010.  At that time, the Streetscape Task Force (STF), the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC), and Northfield in Bloom were involved in addressing the problem but I don’t remember anything getting resolved. Anyone familiar with the current state of affairs re: graffiti?

Update 11:20 PM: similar graffiti at the Carleton College Rec Center:

graffiti at the Carleton College Rec Center

How to fund a trail connecting downtown to the west side via the Hwy 3 underpass

The City of Northfield has applied for $1 million of federal money (Tiger Grant) to construct a pedestrian trail that would connect downtown to the west side.  The proposed route would connect to Greenvale Ave. and St. Olaf Ave via the Hwy. 3 underpass at North Water St. The City must contribute $500K to the project.

At last night’s City Council meeting, Councilors evidently decided that half the cost of trail would come from the downtown fund, according to the Northfield News, with the It’s not clear from the article where the other half would come from. “remainder coming from city reserves.” It’s also not clear what this would do to the prioritized list of other projects that the downtown Streetscape Task Force has identified for funding with money from that downtown fund, especially parking. See NDDC Executive Director Ross Currier’s Oct. 5 blog post: TIF District #4, The Streetscape Task Force, and Downtown Parking.

There is currently enough revenue projected for the TIF District to pay for the Task Force’s long-standing recommendations as well as the City Council’s recent additions. Downtown stakeholders hope that the long-needed parking project will continue to move forward and that this economically critical investment in downtown will be implemented before the TIF District expires.

See pages 68-72 of the Council packet (PDF).  It contains a map of the route but streets aren’t marked. Here’s my live Google Map with the approximate route:

View Greenvale/St. Olaf/Hwy 3 underpass & walkway in a larger map

St. Olaf debuts cool bike repair stations. We need these downtown.

 Bike repair stand at St. Olaf's Buntrock Commons Bike repair stand at St. Olaf's Buntrock Commons Bike repair stand at St. Olaf's Buntrock Commons Jim Fisher, Grounds Manager at St. Olaf
I got a call today from Jim Fisher, Grounds Manager at St. Olaf, alerting me to the new bike repair stands that he was installing today around the campus. I took these photos of the one on the northside of Buntrock Commons, adjacent to the entrance to Lion’s Pause.

Tools with a Dero Fixit bike repair stand  air pump and guage with a Dero Fixit bike repair stand  Dero Fixit bike repair stand
The bike repair stand (Dero Fixit) includes an air pump with a gauge, and seven tools, all tethered with security cables.  You can hang your bike on the stand by its seat post so you can more easily work on it.

Northfield’s downtown Streetscape Task Force should consider installing one or more of these downtown.

Update Aug. 13:

 Bike racks and bike repair station at St. Olaf dorm Bike racks and bike repair station at St. Olaf dorm Bike racks and bike repair station at St. Olaf dorm
Jim Fisher alerted me to another bike repair he installed at one of the St. Olaf dorms, this time with new bike racks… with an artistic flair.

Advertising banners again proliferating in Ames Park. Streetscape Task Force, whaddup?

Advertising banners in Ames Park
There are now four signs/advertising banners in Ames Park at the corner of 5th St and Hwy 3. Even the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store has gotten into it. Heh.

I blogged about this back in May, 2009:  Advertising banners in Ames Park: what are the guidelines? In the comments attached to that post, one citizen reported that they’d asked City Hall about it:

The answer was that there was no charge for the space and the rules were pretty informal — an honor system of sorts. You just needed to let them know when you would put the sign up and how long you needed the space. It was understood that you’d secure it safely and take the sign down right after the event. It was also understood that the space was for community events like the hospital book fair and not private business advertising.

Looks like one business is advertising, not that I’m objecting.

Mayor Mary Rossing commented:

The Mayor’s Streetscape Taskforce will be meeting again, with new and returning members in the mix, mid June. This is one of their charges. A permanent kiosk has been talked about as we continue to work to add amenities to the downtown and gateway areas. They will be looking at many potential projects and prioritizing and making recommendations to the council. All projects need to be in place (or in progress) by the end of 2013 as this is the end of the master development funds.

So if this was one of the charges for the Streetscape Taskforce two years ago, can someone update us on what was decided, if anything?

A year later and still no progress on downtown’s ugly recycling bins and newspaper vending racks

newspaper vending racks in downtown Northfield DSC03306 recycling bins in downtown Northfield recycling bins in downtown Northfield 
Last June, I whined about all the ugly recycling bins and newspaper vending racks downtown. There were plans to do something about it.

After being removed for the winter, all 20 recycling bins are now back. And with more than two dozen newspaper vending racks currently downtown (most between 2nd and 5th on Division), it’s pretty ugly.  Here’s my count:

  • Northfield News: 9
  • Star Tribune: 5
  • Pioneer Press: 4
  • Northfield News Home & Real Estate: 3
  • Northfield Entertainment Guide: 3
  • Signs of the Times: 1
  • AutoMart: 1

Any chance that the City of Northfield Streets, Parks & Facilities Division, the Streetscape Task Force (website still out-of-date), the NDDC, Northfield in Bloom (website dead), 1st Ward Councilor Suzie Nakasian, and whoever else could get together and address this problem this year?

Podcast: the Triumvirate on downtown parking

The LG TriumvirateIt was just us this week and we spent our entire non-fluff segment talking about downtown parking, as it’s at the top of Streetscape Taskforce’s list of recommendations (PDF of June packet).

304 Washington St. 304 Washington St. 304 Washington St.
$760,000 is budgeted for expenses related to the purchase of this rental property at 304 Washington St.

Update 10:30 PM:

downtown satellite map downtown map streetview
I took these two screenshots from Google Maps view of the street, adding an arrow on one that points to the property.

Comments are closed. Continue the discussion attached to the June 30 blog post Downtown parking: what’s really needed?

Click play to listen. 30 minutes.

You can also download the MP3 or subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe directly with iTunes. Our radio show/podcast, Locally Grown, usually airs Mondays at 6:00 PM and Sundays at 10 AM on KYMN 1080 AM.

Recycling bins and newspaper vending racks: a project for the Streetscape Task Force?

Recycling bins downtown Recycling bins downtown newspaper vending racks downtown
City Administrator Joel Walinski writes in the June 4 Friday Memo:

Downtown Recycling Cans, Oh! They’re so ugly! 20 temporary recycling containers were put in place Friday June 4, 2010 along Division Street. Street Supervisor TJ Heinricy has been working with Waste Management staff to develop a test-recycling program for the downtown area over the past several months.

Our interest is in the assessing the recycling waste stream and how much use there is or could be. This information will be used in the cost analysis and consideration of the return on investment for allocating future dollars on more permanent (eye-appealing) recycling containers in the downtown area.

Seems like downtown recycling bins and newspaper vending racks should be a project for the Streetscape Task Force.

Recycling bins, Montreal Missoula recycling bins  Flash Forward recycling bin, Toronto
Left: I like the ones used in Montreal near McGill University.
Center: the ones in Missoula, Montana aren’t bad
Right: even better are ones in Toronto that serve another purpose – Art:

Continue reading Recycling bins and newspaper vending racks: a project for the Streetscape Task Force?

The grass on Bridge Square: still lousy after all these years

A downtown business owner grumbled to me this week about the condition of the grass on Bridge Square, wondering why, if the park is the crown jewel of downtown, the grass in such bad shape.

grass on Bridge Square grass on Bridge Square grass on Bridge Square

grass on Bridge Square grass on Bridge Square grass on Bridge Square
I took these photos last night. Yep, it’s pretty bad in many spots.

Downtown Northfield Streetscape Framework PlanThe condition of the grass is mentioned twice in the Downtown Streetscape Framework Plan, created back in 2006:

P. 71: “Seed grass and repair lawn in Bridge Square.”

P. 73: “Bridge Square would have grass in the bald spots.”

I know, the grass takes a beating because the park is so popular and so many community events are held there.  And there are probably issues with fertilizer and weed killer, both human and environmental.

With that in mind, is there anything that can be done that would also be cost-effective?  And if so, what time of year would be best to do it?

Proposed graffiti ordinance coming to the Council: where’s the HPC and STF input?

graffiti on building in downtown Northfield graffiti on building in downtown Northfield graffiti on building in downtown Northfield graffiti on building in downtown Northfield
I blogged about the problem of graffiti on downtown buildings back in 2008 and again in 2009 so I was glad to see this item on the tentative agenda for the April 6 City Council meeting: First reading of Ordinance No. 909 – Graffiti ordinance.

As you can see from the photos above that I took this week, graffiti from the 2008 incident is still visible on some buildings. (I’ve removed the password protection on the post with the photo slideshow.)

graffiti ordinance I could find nothing on the City’s web site about the proposed ordinance (sigh) but a building owner emailed it to me and I’ve converted it to a PDF here.

90% of the proposed ordinance language is oriented towards dealing with the property owners (victims) who don’t remove the graffiti. There’s nothing about prevention or surveillance, nothing about the restrictions for buildings in the historic district, nothing about funds to help building owners with the costs of graffiti removal, etc.

This draft needs reworking, IMHO, so I’m curious how it got this far without the involvement of the Streetscape Task Force (STF) and the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC). I don’t see anything in recent STF agendas on this issue, even though their mission includes this:

2. Explore the development of a program that may assist downtown property owners with vandalism/graffiti prevention.

Page 71 of the Streetscape Task Force plan says “HPC should develop grant program for removing graffiti from historic buildings – an expensive process.” I don’t see anything in recent HPC agendas on this issue either.

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