Committee will study options for downtown Monticello development

A committee composed of council, commission and citizen members met for the first time this week to study Monticello’s downtown area and its development potential.

The “Small Area Study Steering Committee” will meet approximately four times and is scheduled to complete its work in May, explained Community and Economic Development Assistant Jacob Thunander.

The committee’s first meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. this Thursday (Feb. 9) in the Monticello Community Center’s Academy Room.

The concept for completion of a small area study arose from a June 2016 Monticello Economic Development Authority (EDA) strategy session, at which the EDA members present placed downtown redevelopment as the top priority or focus area for the near future.

It was discussed during the strategy session and in other EDA meetings that given the recent changes and investments within the core downtown commercial district, the land use components of the city’s previously developed “Embracing Downtown” Study required review and update.

Last July, the EDA authorized the preparation of a request for proposal (RFP) for consideration, and in December 2016, EDA commissioners selected Minneapolis-based Cuningham Group, Inc. to produce the small area study, which has an estimated cost of $45,000 to $55,000.

The Cuningham Group’s model for the Monticello small area project includes the support of the steering committee.

Selecting representatives to serve on the committee was early an January agenda item for Monticello City Council, Monticello Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Monticello Planning Commission members during their first meetings of the new year.

The small area to be studied includes the four corners at the intersection of Highway 25 and County Road 75, and includes additional blocks to the west of Highway 25.

The study will focus on development of alternative land use concepts that will be analyzed by developers for feasibility.

“We’re excited to hear the input and ideas the group has to share with [our] project consultant, the Cuningham Group,” Thunander stated in an email, adding the committee was scheduled to meet for approximately an hour-and-a-half this Thursday.

Future meetings of the committee will occur at a time which works best for the majority of the group, Thunander reported.

Downtown Monticello originally developed as a place for residents and visitors to come together for commerce and recreation. Located in the historic area of the city and along the Mississippi River, the downtown is a unique neighborhood at the heart of Monticello.

The downtown area has also been a central focus of planning efforts to recapture its vibrancy as a place for all people to enjoy its amenities.

In 2010, the city of Monticello completed a guide to redeveloping downtown called the “Embracing Downtown Plan.”

The plan considered land use, transportation and market realities for the area considered to be “Downtown Monticello,” extending from Interstate 94 at its southern boundary to the Mississippi River in the north, and generally from Cedar Street on the east to Maple Street on the west.

Since the adoption of the Embracing Downtown Plan, changes in the downtown marketplace have impacted the desire and ability to implement the land use part of the Embracing Downtown Plan as it was originally intended.

In particular, the core downtown area requires a new perspective in terms of land uses most likely to be developed and successful.

The city of Monticello Economic Development Authority (EDA) recently authorized the small area study of the core downtown area.

The study is designed to give revised land use direction to the core of downtown while supporting the overall direction of 2010 Embracing Monticello; offer a fresh look at current land market conditions and how they have changed since 2010, and redefine popular sales trends as well as celebrate, strengthen, and leverage the authenticity of Downtown Monticello, its unique position in the region, and its existing amenities.

The study will be used to create a usable plan that’s easy to read and exists in multiple formats and inspire investment with a planning process that focuses on practical solutions and existing market potential.

The EDA is working with the Cuningham Group to accomplish this through a revised land use plan for the core downtown area.

An essential part of the study’s planning process is a steering committee with representatives from city commissions, the Monticello Chamber of Commerce, and interested citizens.

Public engagement sessions will also be held for residents and visitors to provide thoughts and visions. The steering committee and public engagement sessions will guide the evolution of the plan.

If you are interested in staying updated with the progress of the study or have questions, contact Thunander at [email protected]

Contact Tim Hennagir at [email protected]