One of the best foundations I’ve seen focused upon rural revival is Minnesota’s Initiative Foundation. This foundation was set up by one of the founders of 3M and their name should be Innovative Foundation for all of the innovative programs that they have seeded in small towns throughout the state.
Their Winter 2007 edition of their IQ (Initiative Quarterly) magazine was focused upon Minnesota’s rural resurgence. One of those articles laid out 10 ideas for a Main Street Makeover.
Fresh Ideas from Minnesota’s Downtown Revival
1. Facades can be renovated and designed to reflect the community’s vision and historic flavor. Nisswa boasts a charming atmosphere with up-north facades.
2. Parking must be close to shopping or in well-marked areas such as behind stores, where visitors can be sure they’ll find a spot.
3. Brick Pavers, benches, clocks, streetlights, and unique artwork attract visitors and encourage them to stay awhile. Little Falls installed old-fashioned lamp posts and artistic murals.
4. Preserve or restore historic buildings. Staples is working to reopen an opera house and return a historic railroad depot to its original splendor.
5. A downtown area shouldn’t be independent of its unique natural assets. Walker connected a city beach and harbor to its downtown.
6. Use open space to create parks and relaxation areas. Park Rapids transformed vacant lots into flower gardens and pocket parks.
7. Adjacent neighborhoods can feature attractive gateways, inviting residents to walk downtown.
8. Create corridors that lead visitors through the downtown to outer commercial zones. Bemidji’s main entrance flows through the downtown before it reaches other business districts.
9. Make your downtown pedestrian-friendly. Lower speed limits and install attractive lighting and well-marked cross-walks.
10. Consider higher-density housing. Crosby planned for senior housing near its downtown, so seniors can walk, shop and enjoy a sense of community.