|COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENTS |
Bemidji Community Pursues Active Living
Headwaters RDC has partnered with Beltrami Wellness Education for Long Life (B-WELL) in a planning effort for wellness. Wellness can mean many things to different people, but this effort is focusing on improving the bicycle and pedestrian networks in our community so that physical activity can be easily incorporated into day-to-day life. This concept, called “Active Living”, has created a buzz across the state of Minnesota and Bemidji is excited to be a part of it. With funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield and Prevention Minnesota, the community has the opportunity to build a partnership, research, and plan for what is going to make Bemidji a physically active community. Our goal will be to increase access and reduce barriers to an active lifestyle.
To create this plan the Headwaters RDC worked to coordinate an Active Living partnership that has served an advisory role in the process during the first eight months. This partnership includes representatives from the City of Bemidji, the School District’s Community Education, Bemidji State University, MeritCare, and a cross-section of the pedestrian/bicyclist community in Bemidji.
Beyond forming a partnership, the Bemidji Active Living Plan is being developed, with most of the focus on identifying barriers in our community to an active lifestyle and assets we can capitalize on to create improvements. Work done to contribute to this plan has included:
- Reviewed policies from public and private entities
- Identified all physical assets in our community (parks, trails, gyms, etc)
- Conducted a walk audit of downtown Bemidji
- Held focus groups around the community with college students, high school students, young professionals, city professionals, elderly, bicyclists and avid walkers
- Mark Fenton, an expert in active living, visited Bemidji for 2 days and provided his assessment on major challenges we are facing, with suggestions for strategic improvements
- Identified and reviewed priorities with important stakeholders
Some potential strategies stemming from this project could include a review of the City’s zoning and subdivision ordinances, pursuit of a complete streets policy, striping of bike lanes on key routes in the community, construction of additional sidewalks in important residential and school areas, and developing a way finding system as outlined in the City Center Plan.
Following the planning phase, concluding in summer of 2009, the Headwaters RDC and the Active Living partnership will work to identify additional resources to allow for implementation. With demonstrated progress, the community will be eligible to apply for up to $125,000 per year for four years from Blue Cross Blue Shield and Prevention Minnesota.
Blackduck Receives SCDP Grant
With assistance from the HRDC, the City of Blackduck was awarded $502,000 through the Small Cities Development program to conduct downtown improvement activities, housing rehabilitation, and construction of affordable homes. With these dollars the City expects to:
- Help four downtown businesses complete storefront renovation projects;
- Assist 10 homeowners make structural repairs, energy improvements, or eliminate any health and safety issues their home may have; and
- Provide Homeownership Assistance to four families
Commercial renovation and homeowner rehabilitation projects will likely begin sometime this summer. The Homeownership Assistance activity will involve the construction of four new single family homes and their construction will likely begin next spring.
Bemidji Downtown Revitalization
Commercial and residential building improvements will begin in Downtown Bemidji this spring – the first major revitalization effort in 25 years.
Exciting changes are happening in Downtown Bemidji because of the success of the Bemidji Downtown Revitalization Project. The City was successful in its efforts to access more than $600,000 in grant funds from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to help finance the renovation of commercial buildings and affordable rental housing units in the downtown. HRDC staff is providing general oversight for the project and Bi-CAP is administering the rehabilitation activities.
The program has generated a high level of interest from downtown property owners. Eighteen rental units (apartments) are being renovated. These upgrades will substantially improve the stock of affordable housing in the downtown.
Repairs and storefront renovations on fourteen commercial projects are underway with the potential to fund one more project. Storefront renovations provide exciting, visible changes, but many buildings are also receiving needed repairs to improve safety and ensure soundness. Examples include roof repairs, heating and air conditioning system upgrades, new windows, lighting, and accessible rest rooms.
Because of the program’s success, we have more interest than funding! Additional property owners would like to participate in a second phase of funding, which may be pursued upon the complete expenditure of the first round of grant funds.