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City hires downtown consultants

Over the past year city officials, local business leaders and a mayoral task force have created a vision for downtown Red Wing.

While that vision has been articulated, how best to make it a reality has not.

"It's one thing to say you want downtown to be a certain way; it's another to figure out how to do it," Red Wing Planning Director Brian Peterson said.

The Red Wing City Council on Monday hired Hoisington Koegler Group Inc. to craft a downtown action plan at a cost of $39,560. The council voted unanimously in support of the measure.

Peterson said the consulting group will team up with city staff and local business organizations to develop a specific game plan for downtown development.

Initially skeptical of the contract, Council member Lisa Bayley asked just what the consultants are being hired to do.

"I'm concerned you're going to have yet another report," she said, adding she wanted the action plan to have some teeth.

Peterson assured it would.

Pushing forward

Council member Mike Schultz, who sat on the mayor's taskforce, said an action plan is the city's next logical step. He added the city must work in order to ensure the downtown is prosperous.

"We can either stay stagnant and see a slow decline or we can push forward," he said.

In general, the vision purported by city officials and business leaders has called for incentives to promote downtown redevelopment.

They wish to fill empty storefronts, empty lots and to promote additional housing in the corridor.

Incentives are needed, Peterson said, because developers often find it easier to buy and develop land on the outskirts of town where there are less hoops to jump through.

The action plan would spell out each city agency's and business organization's role in providing incentives and courting developers.

The final version of the plan is scheduled to go before the council for approval in early 2009.