Building-block exercise helps steering committee create vision for downtown

A hand-on exercise featuring colored blocks and Monticello city maps provided perspective for the Downtown Small Area Plan Steering Committee during its third meeting.

The Monticello Economic Development Authority (EDA) is working with Minneapolis-based Cuningham Group to accomplish a revised land use plan for the core downtown Monticello area.

Andrew Dresdner, a senior associate with the Cuningham Group, and Thomas Leighton, a principal Tangible Consulting Services, spearheaded another steering committee meeting March 23 at the Monticello Community Center.

During the second half of the meeting, steering committee members filled maps of Block 34 and Block 52 in the downtown area with blocks representing retail and housing elements that could be included in a plan to make the area a viable redevelopment target.

Residents can learn more about the progress on downtown revitalization planning and share their ideas for downtown Monticello by attend the Downtown Small Area Study Open House this Thursday, March 30, at 6 p.m. at the Monticello Community Center.

Dresdner and Leighton will present proposed ideas and the feedback received to-date on the community’s vision for downtown.

The small area study plan establishes a long-range vision for the core blocks around Pine Street (Highway 25) and Broadway in downtown Monticello.

The city owns several properties in this area, and there is development interest on private parcels. The small area plan will address not only the redevelopment potential of these blocks, but also public spaces such as the streets and parks.

The plan will examine ways the downtown can be more walkable, memorable, and enjoyable. The Monticello EDA is contracting with Cuningham Group to develop the plan.

A steering committee is providing input to the plan. A four-meeting process is being used to solicit input from residents and business owners through focus groups and public comment. A final plan will be delivered to the Monticello EDA in April and Monticello City Council for their approval in May.

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.

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

According to city officials, a long term plan is important to because a healthy downtown is crucial to the city’s overall health.

A plan for the core blocks could stimulate investment and downtown more attractive. Shifting the center of downtown from Highway 25 and Broadway to Broadway and Walnut and adding housing and retail is an early, key recommendation recently presented to the Small Area Plan Steering Committee.