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City plots future of gateway district, community center

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Detroit Lakes aldermen and city staff met Thursday and Friday to discuss long- and short-term goals for the city for 2007, but in a new twist this year, the newly-formed Community Strategies Committee gave some input on upcoming projects including the gateway district, downtown district and the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center.

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Mayor Larry Buboltz said the committee -- including city staff, aldermen, community and business members -- was formed to discuss and make suggestions on "special issues, ones important to our community in the future."

One of the biggest upcoming project in the future being the gateway district, or the area where Hardees, Ortons and Savoir Cleaners stood before the Highway 10 realignment project began.

While some may confuse the gateway district with the entrance to Detroit Lakes, the gateway district is actually the area from Washington Avenue to Roosevelt Avenue, and between the soon-to-be old Highway 10 and new Highway 10.

The city had a master plan prepared for the gateway district, which includes a couple suggestions for layout, but nothing has been decided upon yet. The city isn't even certain if it or a developer will be developing the land.

Plans for the gateway district will include a sizable amount of green space -- an amount that could decrease, although Alderman Bruce Imholte encouraged the city to keep the space, especially since green space next to the courthouse will be lost once that addition begins.

"It's a unique opportunity we're not going to get again," committee member Mary Beth Gilsdorf said of the green space and the project as a whole.

Alderman Ron Zeman questioned the plan for Floral Impressions and Burger Time properties, since they will be located in the area, but won't necessarily fit with the new look the area will have.

"Acquiring those properties is critical," Buboltz agreed.

The gateway district will be limited to about five new businesses, and city leaders are wondering what will be the incentive to get new businesses in the area. Buboltz named a couple incentives, including the possibility of moving the municipal liquor store to the new area and expanding city hall in its existing location.

The area is also a tax increment financing district, giving businesses a tax break when building in the area.

Moving along the highway, Zeman said he also has concerns for the downtown area. Washington Avenue is seeing more and more empty storefronts.

Also with the new design of the buildings in the gateway district, Gilsdorf, also with Norby's Department Store, said she's hoping the Detroit Lakes facelift "keeps creeping west" to include downtown properties.

Alderman James Hannon agreed the downtown district should redo storefronts to have a more appealing appearance. The problem is cost. City Attorney Bill Briggs suggested the possibility of a Renaissance district like Fargo's downtown went through a few years ago.

"There needs to be a plan to make downtown look more inviting," agreed committee member Deb Wimmer.

City Administrator Rich Grabow said revitalization of the downtown district needs to have business owners onboard because in that past, it hasn't been well received.

Moving even further west, the future at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center and Becker County Historical Society was next for change.

Committee member and Historical Society representative Cyndi Anderson told city staff the BCHS is looking to expand because the current building on Summit Avenue is filled to capacity.

She said the Historical Society has several options, including finding a new location, building on at the current location or building on to the Community Center and being housed within.

The Historical Society owns the land the museum sits on, the white house behind it and a large portion of the DLCCC parking lot. Discussion has included tearing down the white house and building on in that direction.

Holmes Inc. has expressed an interest in building onto the existing DLCCC to add a youth gymnasium.

Anderson said if that were to happen, the Historical Society could share office or front desk duties and be located in the Holmes portion of the DLCCC.

With that being done, the white house and existing museum could be torn down and turned into more of a parking lot for the DLCCC. Buboltz said there is certainly a need for more parking in that area.

Zeman suggested looking into a block near there with old homes to be torn down and parking added in that location. Buboltz agreed his ideal situation would be to have the dilapidated homes torn down and offices go in that block and the DLCCC could use the parking after business hours.

Anderson said the Historical Society board is also looking to keep green space in that area.

No decisions were made at the strategic planning meeting, but the group hopes to get some planning done in the near future.

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