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Commons Coalition to present pre-planning charrette findings

At a meeting last week, members of the Commons Coalition and facilitators from Leo A Daly page through preliminary concepts of how space could be laid out at the Community Commons property. (Photo by Micheal Foley)1 / 2
The Community Commons site currently houses many groups, including Community Education, VFW Post 10818 and the Five Loaves Food Shelf and Clothing Center. City Administrator Mike Darrow sees the site as a location full of possibilities and a great site to create synergy between many groups in New Richmond. (Photo by Mike Demulling)2 / 2

Back on June 30, the New Richmond City Council, the New Richmond School District Board of Education and the New Richmond Library Board agreed to collaborate in a pre-project development charrette for the entire Community Commons site at 421 S. Green Ave.

Now, 18 weeks later, the collaboration group made up of officials from the city, school district, library and the various Commons partners has something to present for community feedback.

The Community Commons Pre-Project Planning Charrette Committee, also known as the Commons Coalition, met with facilitators from Leo A Daly to steer the conversation toward an end. That end, which is really just a beginning, will be presented to the community at a public open house at the Community Commons from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6.

“This is an excellent opportunity for people to let their voices be heard about a possible multipurpose facility,” said City Administrator Mike Darrow. “It is also a great opportunity to take a tour of the site as well as meet with Commons partners.”

Over the last few months the Commons Coalition has come together to determine what is important to each of the stakeholder groups as well as each Commons partner.

“The process has been very positive, and I think a lot of understanding among the partners has been created,” said Jeff Moberg, superintendent of the New Richmond School District. “There have been many ideas generated and a lot of information and discussion around those ideas.”

The challenge was to find a solution that not only addressed the needs of the school district and the library, but also multiple Commons partners, including CESA 11 Head Start, Five Loaves Food Shelf and Thrift Store, VFW Post 10818 and the New Richmond Senior Center.

“People who attend the open house I believe will be able to see that the city, school district, library and Commons partners working together for the betterment of our community,” said Morrie Veilleux, who has represented the Commons partners at the meetings. “Interested citizens will be able to provide us with their thoughts and ideas to help us develop a partnership that will serve the needs of our citizens.”

At the group’s last meeting, they stressed to the Leo A Daly facilitators that the focus should remain on gathering community support and feedback on the concept of including each of the entities at the Commons site rather than presenting floorplans and bubble diagrams that can cause community members to feel left out of the process.

“It will be important to ensure that this project is transparent and that those interested have an opportunity to provide comments and ask questions,” Darrow said. “We understand that most likely, a very small fraction of the community will attend the meeting on Thursday evening. Because of that, we’ll make sure that this meeting is available on the city’s website and our social media sites. If a concept is developed through this ‘Phase 1’ process, the buy-in must include things beyond the concept. The actual costs of the building, structural analysis, and potential partners and partner agreements will be critical to the second phase of this project.”

Last month, Alderman Jim Zajkowski floated an idea that involved housing the city’s offices on the second and third floors of the 1926 portion of the Commons building.

Though his idea seemed to be well-received by the other Coalition members, Zajkowski insisted that it was just an idea to explore and that nothing was set in stone.

“I just wanted to throw this out there now so we don’t go any further and say tear this building down right away,” Zajkowski said. “This is all just discussion and looking at things, and I would like to look seriously into putting the city offices down here.”

Zajkowski’s idea will be one of the multiple concepts discussed at Thursday’s meeting. Then it will be up to the community to let the Coalition know whether it is on the right track and if further planning steps should be taken.

“We will be able to measure if there is community buy-in for the Community Commons concept to continue by hearing from the citizens of our community, which includes everyone who is a resident of the school district,” Veilleux said. “I believe very strongly the citizens will let us know if they support the continuation of the Community Commons concept and if it should be located at the current site. We need to listen to them!”


Public Open House

What: The Commons Coalition will present its vision for the the Community Commons concept and ask for community feedback.

Where: Community Commons (421 S. Green Ave., New Richmond)

When: 6-8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 6

Micheal Foley
Micheal Foley worked at RiverTown Multimedia from July 2013 to June 2015 as editor at the New Richmond News. 
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