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'Great opportunities' downtown

Executive director of Red Wing’s Downtown Main Street, Wendy Ward, is looking to have all eyes on downtown Red Wing.

Ward set forth goals and strategic plans to build upon the city’s scenic area and niche tourism market to City Council members Monday night.

The “all eyes on downtown” strategy looks to pull public and private entities to fill historic downtown properties.

“We want to try and focus everybody on the urgency on the health and welfare of downtown,” Ward said. “Our mission is to progressively and tangibly revitalize downtown. We feel there is already really good momentum in the Old West area, and for downtown there needs to be a coordinated, collective effort to focus because downtown is everything — the identity, the economy.”

She noted that this is not to say they are ignoring the Pottery Mall and Old West Main areas, but to be proactive in looking at the businesses needed downtown and how to bring those here.

“We have some great things happening,” she said, highlighting on the mission to “get that action, that interest and that excitement” buzzing downtown.

Priority will be put on not only striving to build projects but to build the heart of the downtown community, tying together city, residential and business areas and creating walkable neighborhoods.

Strategic endeavors will involve working with existing property owners and businesses as well as developing relationships with partners to best understand and continue to develop the marketplace.

City planning director Brian Peterson said the evening’s discussion was “an identification of a time where there really are some great opportunities” in the downtown area with several capital projects in the works over the next five years.

“Wendy talked about how we could identify business types that would do well here,” Peterson said. “She mentioned how food and beverage attracts people to the core of downtown as well as connections to outdoor sports and activities and the local art scene.”

Peterson also highlighted how the council “weighed in saying that there are a lot of good things happening” and also looked at exemplary models of community redevelopment like St. Paul’s Lowertown, a successful partnership of city and private sectors in creating a mix of housing, offices, retail stores, services, restaurants, theaters, parks and public spaces highlighting St. Paul’s historic buildings.

The Lowertown marketing strategy, developed and executed over 25 years, aimed to attract people, business and investment to the area and has become an example to many communities across the country.

Peterson said that the model could be a good fit for downtown Red Wing in that Lowertown developed programs and utilized funding sources to help create well-designed catalyst projects that preserve historic character and also look toward a business mix that would fit the area’s niche area and tourism market.

“I like the model,” Ward said. “Every city is different, so you cannot cut and paste. You do have to modify it and bend it to meet our city’s history, people and vision.”

She mentioned that the success of the Lowertown project is one that is very possible here.

Getting “all eyes on downtown” is an initiative that will serve residents and visitors, according to Ward.

“This town is positioned (for successful revitalization). It is not in disrepair, despair,” she said.

In fact, Ward highlighted that the Red Wing area is one of the most beautiful in Minnesota and has the potential to grow and thrive on current and future markets.