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ZachariahDaMan

Best Minnesota downtowns

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For a smaller city, Bemidji's downtown isn't bad. Considering that there is a mall and major big box developments to the north and west and a 60 store outlet mall about to be built, the downtown has remained strong. I think one of the biggest parts is being right on Lake Bemidji and having lakeside parks and also a scultpure walk in which you can walk around downtown and see scultpures by area artists.

I also think that the fact that one can still buy everything you need downtown is very important. While it no longer features a full service grocery store, it does have a general merchandise store with basic foods and then several smaller stores with produce/meat/etc.

Also, it's very hard to find a parking space, which also shows the vitality of the area.

I wouldn't rank it as one of the best, but certainly better than downtown Plymouth, or the lack thereof. (as an example)

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Mankato's downtown currently doesn't have much going on... but it has potential to be a nice place. It is in a pretty location in the Minnesota River valley and the city is growing at a solid rate.

This new hotel will add some life to the area and give the civic center more use.

http://www.ci.mankato.mn.us/cityh/pubrel/n...sid=317&cur=11#

Hopefully this sparks an upward trend!

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For a smaller city, Bemidji's downtown isn't bad. 

I went to college there and always found the downtown to be quaint and inviting. Most of my time spent downtown was bar hopping, so maybe my favorable images of Bemidji were seen through rose colored beer goggles, LOL.

Lake Bemidji is gorgeous and downtown is kinda perched on a peninsula of sorts, with a waterway linking into Lake Irving. And of course the University campus is right along the shores of Lake Bemidji, blending into the north part of downtown. I always loved going back to college in the Fall. A very cute town, especially Diamond Point Park.

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I wouldn't rank it as one of the best, but certainly better than downtown Plymouth, or the lack thereof. (as an example)

From the view on google earth the comercial center of plymouth(which I'm sure is all coorporate retail) has a good location... if they would ever want to start some smart city center developement.

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Mankato's downtown currently doesn't have much going on... but it has potential to be a nice place. It is in a pretty location in the Minnesota River valley and the city is growing at a solid rate.

Mankato does have potential, but unfortunately, like all the MN (and, in general, Midwestern) cities, the growth is just sprawling out the suburbs (this was definitely true in Rochester).

I like Duluth. While the downtown still feels a bit gritty, there is no denying its dramatic geography.

I also like what Edina did with the, what was it called, 50 France Street concept. While somewhat artificial, there are a lot of older time commercial districts out there in Old America (like our Thayer Street or Westminster Streets in Providence, RI) that could take a lot of inspiration from how Edina was able to seamlessly integrate generous parking garage space that's accessable while not ruining the pedestrian, downtown experience.

- Garris

Providence, RI

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Duluth is my pick. I thought it was very nice when I was there in '02.

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I like Duluth's downtown. The buildings are older and have lots of personality, the geography is very dramatic (of course, that's not a good thing if you are biking up the streets), the views are great farther up, and despite having a skywalk, which is more or less a Godsend in the winter, and the streets are quite active in the summer. Plus, the tourist / recreation / restaurant district of Canal Park is within reasonable walking distance from most of it.

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I think Duluth is one of Minnesota's gems. I love that city. They've certainly improved the city in the past 10 years too.

I've just been looking up information on a proposed events center that will be built in downtown Bemidji.

The placement and design of the building is what is most impressive. The city plans to level the entire Union Square development that was built in the 1980s as a downtown revitalization project. They plan on moving the "Union Station" building that recently closed. At one point in the mid-to-late '90s there 9 tenants in the development including 4 restaurants, 4 shops, and a grocery store. All that are left now are two restaurants.. one of which is moving to a different location within the next few months. (Two of the restaurants have closed for good, as has the grocery store because it was moved. The other tenants have moved to other locations downtown)

The area will be re-landscaped and the building's architecture will be in the style of late 1800s red brick with a flat roof. The building will actually look like the old train station that was completed in 1912 and is now a museum. It will also be partially built into the ground so that it does not tower over the rest of downtown (our tallest buildings are the 5 story federal building and courthouse.. and of course, a 12 story dormatory at BSU).

It's exciting though, because it will revitalize a part of downtown that has been dead since the 1950s.

There are also proposals by developers to add onto downtown with retail/residential mixed developments.

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Good, most of my family is from that area. My uncle said everything use to happen downtown, and like most cities bemidji's size, wal mart moved in.

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I don't think Wal-Mart has hurt downtown. It has actually helped business down there because it has brought more people into Bemidji to shop.

Our Wal-Mart draws the most sales of any Wal-mart in a 5 state area pulling in up to $35million/quarter.

The death of downtown was sealed in the 1970s with the arrival of a mall, fast food restaurants, and K-Mart. During the 80s, major efforts were made to revitalize downtown.. and it worked. Downtown was thriving by the early '90s. There were 2 grocery stores, a big box retailer, many many restaurants, and clothing/apparel stores.. even furniture and appliance stores.

Now there is no grocery store.. but there are restaurants, coffee shops, clothing/apparel, furniture, and appliance stores still... and now the city is ready to revitalize the area again with an events/convention center.

They've just finished a $150million project that re-did the main road between Lake Irving and Lake Bemidji.. the reconstruction split the road up into two one way roads following each side of the "penninsula" to allow for more green space on the shore of Lake Bemidji. Native trees, shrubs, and grasses were planted to keep the lake shore from eroding.

In the plans, besides, the convention center, is redeveloping the site of the old Georgia Pacific plant on the southeast shore of Lake Bemidji. The site had served as a paper/wood mill since the late 1800s until 1999 when GP closed the plant. There are several proposals for development.. but it's so close to downtown that it will only complement it rather than compete with it. (plans include a pedestrian village for shopping with apartments, homes, condos, park space, and trails for snowmobiling/XC skiing, and walking/biking.

With the area expected to grow by 40% over the next 30 years, proper growth policies need to be put into place so we don't end up like an explosion on the map like St. Cloud or Brainerd.

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That certainly is great news coming out of Bemidji. I do have a soft spot for that town.

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I have always liked Northfield's "downtown", which has probably retained much of its character due to the relatively high college student population from St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges. Jesse James was caught in Northfield (year?) and last time I was there, the bullet holes were still visible exterior walls of the bank.

Unfortunately, the big boxes have crept into town during the past 10-15 years...

By the way, except for the suburbs mentioned, every city and town that has been mentioned on this post has a college associated with it, concidence?

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I think having a college/university is really important in maintaining the vitality in many smaller towns. They bring in educators and also boost the younger population, which is lacking in many small towns/cities.

I don't think having a University makes a town great, however.. I think it's what has allowed towns to stay great well after many other cities were largely de-populated, pushed into economic decline, and largely forgotten about. Having something permanent like a University can help an economy in times of recession and it also provides diversity to the economy.

For example, Bemidji is a city of 12,000 with a surrounding area (school district/zip code/etc.) population of 30,000. At the same time, there are 5,000 students at Bemidji State University and around 800 more college students at a Northwest Technical college and Oak Hills Christian Bible college. 5800 collegestudents in an area of 30,000 is a pretty big influence. It keeps businesses going in the winter that would have trouble staying open after the tourists left.

A city of similar size (or at least was) was Hibbing, where there isn't a 4 year institution and that city's population has sunk below 18000 from a height of near 25,000 30 years ago. In that same period, Bemidji has grown from 20,000 or so, to 30,000 and the growth is accelerating. I believe the vitality of a diversified economy, the large government/education center, and a tourism aspect has kept this town going and now we're being inundated with 40-50something Twin Citians who want "cabins" (rather, 4000 sq. foot mini-mansions) on lakes. Of course they're welcome, i just ask that they don't price the locals out of their own house!

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Duluth has my vote for things mentioned already such as geography and the obvious views of Lake Superior from town and the little shops and all. Northfield does have some nice aspects to it too. I remember watching the Jesse James reenactment when I was little, that was pretty neat, plus I like the Indian restaurant at the old hotel their.

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Duluth has my vote for things mentioned already such as geography and the obvious views of Lake Superior from town and the little shops and all. Northfield does have some nice aspects to it too. I remember watching the Jesse James reenactment when I was little, that was pretty neat, plus I like the Indian restaurant at the old hotel their.

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