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Crescents, green space and a 'town square' -- Consultants' plan starts to take shape for downtown Detroit Lakes

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Crescents, green space and a 'town square' -- Consultants' plan starts to take shape for downtown Detroit Lakes
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

After surveys, meetings and public feedback, RDG Planning and Design consultants Marty Shukert and Cory Scott presented ideas for the redevelopment of Detroit Lakes at the Development Authority Thursday morning -- which were met with a very positive response.


"The big idea, which focuses around the location of a turbine, of all things, is the use of a crescent," Shukert said, referring to the city utility's electrical-generating turbine located near the police station, which won't be moved.

He said the crescent idea is based on one he encountered this fall in Bethesda, Md. The design would bring parking in front and behind the buildings and integrate green space into the parking lots, creating a more inviting space rather than one large asphalt lot.

The crescent would spread from Central Market west to behind businesses like Norby's Department Store.

A veterans' memorial park would be placed in the space between Highway 10 and the buildings and parking. The park will consist of a scaled-down replica of the USS Minnesota and a reflecting pool. There will be an avenue of flags in the park long Highway 10, and possibly a water fountain at the other end of the park.

As for buildings and retail, Shukert recommended two-story buildings in the redevelopment area that could serve as retail below and either offices or housing above.

The municipal liquor store would be a "huge retail magnet" in the redevelopment area, he said, and is planning a building for it. Figuring the amount of income versus square footage, he said the liquor store has "twice the yield of Wal-Mart. It's a retail anchor that brings others in."

Studying other areas of the city -- like west of Washington Avenue, down West Lake Drive and even North Washington Avenue across the railroad tracks -- Shukert said, "we have a surplus in parking on one side (motioning to the east of Washington Avenue) and in a deficit on the other (motioning to the west)."

To solve the parking problems, Shukert suggested a two-level parking ramp along Front Street, between the Washington Square Mall and the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. The two-deck ramp would provide 500-600 stalls.

Sitting along Front Street would be buildings for more retail, offices or housing, masking the parking ramp from the street. Also reconfiguring the parking in the DLCCC parking lot would create more spaces, he added.

Because of the way Central Market sits, Shukert said he is having more of a problem tying it into the flow of the crescent-shaped project, but he and Scott will be discussing plans further.

The plans for the entire project would include much more green space than Detroit Lakes has, including a proposed "town square" of green space where the old County Market building, which is now the kidney dialysis building for St. Mary's Regional Health Center, sits.

The suggestion of taking down the newly renovated building brought some surprise and comments from Development Authority members, but Shukert said he didn't think St. Mary's would necessarily be opposed if there was a better layout solution for the hospital and clinic.

The design would keep the medical campus on one block and provide more parking for them. Shukert said he would bring more details of that proposal to the May meeting, the next time he and Scott would be visiting Detroit Lakes.

Other plans would include turning the JCPenney parking lot into green space, and working down Washington Avenue towards the lake, the baseball field would be given a facelift to be a big deal -- think Fenway Park -- and draw people down the street.

North Washington Avenue would also be given a much-needed facelift. Taking advantage of the spacious width of Washington Avenue, especially in the first block across the tracks, trees would be put in the median, connecting the green look over the tracks and into the downtown.

Several suggestions were thrown out for the old Washington school building as well, including affordable housing. Revitalizing North Washington Avenue, everyone agreed, would let people coming into town on Highway 34 that this is a place to pull off and visit the rest of the town.

Traveling down Washington Avenue to West Lake Drive, Scott said, with the width of the corner in front of the Pavilion -- or the "Indy Speedway" as he referred to it -- the street could host a round-about in front of the Pavilion and serve several purposes.

Narrowing the lanes would obviously slow the traffic, and if driving along West Lake Drive and realizing Lakeside or Lakeshirts, for example, were missed, drivers could swing in the round-about and head back along West Lake Drive instead of having to go up Washington Avenue and turn around somewhere.

He suggested putting the new sailboat sculpture in the center of the round-about to have a focus point.

He also suggested a boardwalk along the lake instead of the narrow, slanted sidewalk now in place, or maybe having both. The location of the boardwalk hasn't been determined, but Public Works Director Brad Green said he didn't think it should be between the trees and the beach because of the amount of people filling the grass and sand during the summer.

One of the bigger changes to the West Lake Drive area could be a street running from Washington Avenue, heading behind Lakeside, Zorbaz and so on, connecting to Legion Road. It would provide easier access, and in the summer during larger events, like Fourth of July, when West Lake Drive is closed, there would still be ways to access businesses in that area.

He mentioned a couple location possibilities for a convention center, but said the survey to determine if Detroit Lakes could support a convention center isn't completed yet.

"A lot has been done, a lot has yet to be done," he said of the project as a whole.

DLDA chair Jim Anderson asked Shukert what the public reaction was the previous two days to the drawings (during open house, work sessions), and Shukert said, "They loved it. There's a quality front door."

"There's something there to draw you in," Anderson agreed, looking over the plans.

"What I love about it is the curvy nature," Shukert said of the crescent shape of the redevelopment area.

"I like the green space," City Administrator Bob Lousieau said.

"I think it'll grab your eye," Shukert agreed.