June 1st, 2017
The historic Fournet building in downtown Crookston will be spotlighted and celebrated during two days of tours and other activities on Friday and Saturday, June 2-3, but the tours are part of a larger event to get the public excited about the future of downtown Crookston and the community, as well as involved in efforts to build on that excitement.
As part of the tours of the building recently purchased by developer Jeff Evers, who has plans to renovate it, the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership on Friday is hosting an interactive, casual "Community Forum."
Chamber & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Amanda Lien explains:
"The Community Forum is for community input and idea generation on the entire downtown, first and foremost. The involvement from our residents, businesses, and community members and their support is a vital and important part of any redevelopment effort. We will be hosting this forum in conjunction with the historic tours and at the Fournet as we are hoping for great attendance from the community. Tours will be led by Chamber, Polk County Historical Society, and Downtown Partnership volunteers beginning at noon on Friday. The entrance will be off of Robert Street (side entrance), and the route will eventually lead visitors down the original entrance stairs that have recently been reopened and not used in over 50 years. Those stairs bring guests into the old men's store area where the forum will be set up and managed by the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership volunteers."
Those who attend will be able to participate interactively, through the involvement of JLG Architects. "JLG has been working with community partners over the past couple of months to prepare and create many feedback boards that the community will be able to contribute to," Lien said. "This is done in a very interactive way, and guests and visitors will be able to contribute and listen in on as much as they are interested."
Although talk of the downtown "road diet" and a potential reduction in traffic lanes on Main and Broadway to make room for a designated bicycle lane has generated headlines of late, Lien said Friday's events, while focusing on those things, go beyond those things.
"This forum will focus and give feedback on the land use, placemaking opportunities, gateways and connections within our downtown in order to complete the Downtown Master Plan (to be completed by JLG Architects and submitted to the state by August in order to fulfill grant requirements)," Lien explained. "Other information we will be gathering feedback on include general likes, dislikes, draws, and developments people would like to see. JLG has also complied pertinent feedback that was gathered from the 2016 Crookston Comprehensive Plan, which previously addressed the community's support to redevelop downtown, restaurants, retail, recreational facilities, aesthetics, safety and wayfinding."
The grant that the Chamber received in 2016 requires the involvement and education of the broader community on the downtown vision, and a final downtown redevelopment plan that incorporates affordable housing elements to create a neighborhood in downtown Crookston, Lien said. The document will act as a guide for future development and implementation and it's seen as a multi-phase redevelopment approach with JLG Architects, she continued.
"Gathering input from the community is key, because ultimately, they will be the ones to drive the progress, the desires and outcomes of downtown," Lien added.
Evers, who's looking for an anchor tenant to jumpstart his development plans at the Fournet building - Tri-Valley Opportunity Council is a possibility – is excited about the tours and forum.
"It's been about 45 years since the public has been in the upper two floors of the Fournet building. I've had almost everyone I know ask me when can they get in to see the building, so now is the time," he told the Times. "I've taken 3rd and 7th graders and a few others and the response has been very positive. We opened the main front staircase a couple weeks ago that's is thought to have been blocked off for about 45 years. I have the original blueprints and made copies, which will be displayed, which I think is really interesting. There's a comprehensive list of businesses that have been in the building dating back to 1885 through today."
Evers added that he's very thankful for the volunteers from many agencies who are stepping up to help out with the tours and related activities.
Once the tours are in the rear-view mirror, Evers said things are looking good for a "major remodel and development to come" at the Fournet, and things could start happening within the next several weeks.