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Paynesville Press - May 11, 2005

City hopes to create distinctive look for downtown

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

The ad hoc enhancement committee is studying how to make downtown Paynesville more attractive in the hopes that the city will become a destination for area residents and visitors to the area.

One idea to this end is to create a theme for the downtown area.

According to city administrator Steve Helget, the ultimate goal of the ad hoc enhancement committee is to attract more people to downtown by giving it a look that people could identify as Paynesville.

"We want to make Paynesville a destination city, not a pass-through community," said Jean Soine, a city council member, the chair of the ad hoc enhancement committee, and a downtown business owner.

Soine hopes the city will look different from other communities, will be something that will make it stand out in the minds of visitors and make them want to return.

The ad hoc enhancement committee - formed in November - hopes to start with downtown revitalization projects like enclosing trash cans, replacing street lamps, and hanging flower baskets from the lampposts, said Soine. Eventually, she hopes the committee will define a certain look for the downtown.

The enhancement committee wants to establish a clean, uniform look for downtown businesses - possibly with a theme - according to Soine.

Downtown Annandale, with its western theme, has been a frequent topic at committee meetings.

While a certain historical theme is possible, it would not be too cute or faddish, assured Soine.

Guidelines would be easy to meet, she added. "We don't want to be too strict," she said. "We don't want to anger any business owners."

Under the proposed plan, business owners would not be required to remodel their buildings to conform, continued Soine; the guidelines, however, would apply to any remodeling projects that business owners undertake on their own.

The theme or guidelines for downtown would likely be added to the city's zoning ordinance.

For instance, according to Soine, the city could require that businesses doing remodeling projects use certain materials or strive for a certain look. The city could also require that certain building materials not be used in outdoor remodeling projects, she added, such as metal siding, she said.

In the future, a business owner planning to replace the siding on a downtown business may have to conform to the city's guidelines regarding materials and colors when remodeling.

According to Helget, the city has not taken any official action towards establishing design guidelines for downtown Paynesville.

Before guidelines are approved, more input is needed and the city would hold hearings for public input, added Soine.

The ad hoc enhancement committee was formed in November after the city applied for a Small Cities Development Grant last fall. The grant could have provided about $1.2 million in grants and loans to revitalize downtown businesses as well as some Paynesville homes.

The state had 50 applicants for the grant, had money for 16 cities in 2005, and Paynesville finished ranked 22nd. Soine is confident the city will receive grant money in 2006. "This could be a good use for grant money," she added.

The ad hoc enhancement committee is comprised by: Paul Bugbee, Rachel Gilbertson, Helget, Robert and Kay McDaniel, Soine, Chris Stanley, Tory Tish, and Doris Wendlandt.

The committee still has a long way to go before guidelines for downtown Paynesville can be established, said Soine. The group hopes to hire a design consultant to help establish guidelines, and it recently invited the Minnesota Design Team to give their tips and ideas on revitalizing the city.

The committee also wants input from downtown business owners before establishing guidelines. To that end, downtown business owners are encouraged to become active with the committee, which meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

The committee also wants the Paynesville Area Chamber of Commerce involved in the decision-making process, as well as residents, said Helget. "They may have some great ideas," he said.

Although a timeline has not been established, said Helget, the committee would like to have guidelines in place before the 2005 Small Cities Development is decided in spring 2006.

In the meantime, the committee will continue raising money for consultant's fees and for minor upgrades in the city. Last week, the committee held a wine-tasting event as its first fundraiser. Other fundraising ideas include a hog roast and a promotional coupon flyer, said Soine.

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