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New Richmond mobilizes for downtown planning effort

A 10-member team has been assembled to begin developing a "small area plan" for New Richmond's downtown.

According to City Administrator Mike Darrow, the plan will focus on the area bordered by Fourth Street to the south and First Street to the north and will include properties one to two blocks on either side of Knowles Avenue. The idea for the small area plan came from the New Richmond City Council's discussion about the future of its WeTEC incubator building downtown. The WeTEC complex will be included in the overall study.

The new planning team includes Darrow, Dennis Holtz, Tanya Reigel, Beth Thompson, Nancy Petersen, Jared Haas, Rick Wahl, Bob Barbian, Sarah Skinner and Project Manager Dan Koski.

The city employees have begun the process of creating a proposal that will be presented to the New Richmond City Council in August.

Darrow said the proposal will outline the steps city employees intend to take if the council gives its blessing to the idea.

"It's like a consultant making a pitch," Darrow explained. "This will be a $20,000 plan that we're going to be doing internally. I've done a lot of this kind of thing in my past."

The downtown study, if given approval, could include such things as a public survey of what residents want to see downtown; meetings with downtown business owners to gather their input; suggestions concerning possible façade improvements; efforts to improve parking; suggestions on improved signage; and more.

"We're reaching out to other folks," he said, noting that its newly appointed economic development specialist Thompson's goal to meet with every business owner in New Richmond over the next 12 months. "We're excited about that."

The city also hopes to compile a current list of building vacancies downtown and conduct a market study to see what if any new businesses might be a good fit for the community, Darrow noted.