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Possibilities aplenty for downtown plaza

Farmington residents can vote on two concepts and answer questions about future redevelopment at the downtown Rambling River Plaza. The City of Farmington hosted an open house for residents to view and discuss concept plans about future possibilities of a multi-functional plaza that could serve as a venue to host community events like Dew Days and Dazzle Days, or be a spot to build a splash pad, picnic area or green space. Photo by Kara Hildreth1 / 4
Many Farmington seniors and a few young families showed up to look over the redevelopment plans at the city's April 27 open house. Photo by Kara Hildreth2 / 4
Residents examined many plaza possibilities from drawings during the April 27 open house at Farmington City Hall. Photo by Kara Hildreth3 / 4
Urban designer Bryan Harjes with Hoisington Koegler Group answered the public’s questions during an open house Thursday, April 27. Photo by Kara Hildreth4 / 4

How could Farmington use a downtown outdoor park and plaza outside Rambling River Center?

The public was invited to view concept plans and share feedback at an open house April 2 at Farmington City Hall. Nearly 20 residents showed up to review two concept designs and ask urban developers questions. All attendants were asked to fill out comment cards and answer six questions.

The city wants to capture a broader feedback representation from residents about the Downtown Redevelopment Plan. All residents can answer questions online and vote for Concept A or Concept B on the city website or at city hall.

The Downtown Redevelopment Plan is not a single action, but a collection of public and private actions to occur over a period of years. The plaza redevelopment is listed as number four out of 10 initiatives.

"The plaza funding has not been identified yet because we have to have an understanding of what type of amenities the public desires," said Adam Kienberger, Farmington community development director.

After the public chooses preferred amenities, city staff and city council members will work to put together cost estimate proposals and identify funding sources. The funding could become a combination of grant dollars and outside funding sources, Kienberger said.

Plaza purpose

A future plaza could be built on the west side of Rambling River Center on Oak Street downtown.

Two concepts outline a multi-functional downtown plaza space. A plaza and green space could be utilized for daily, informal uses. The plaza could also become a gathering place and venue for community activities like Farmington's summer festival Dew Days. The outdoor space could be a place to host the holiday downtown Dazzle Days and lighting of the community tree.

A new redeveloped plaza could create a downtown destination. The new features and amenities could attract residents and visitors to downtown Farmington.

Concept designers outline how a new plaza could be more attractive and interesting. A park could provide a variety of amenities and activities that offer year-round interest. A safer, more organized plaza and park space could enhance the downtown by improving visual quality with lighting and give residents more parking.

Key features

The plaza and park areas could include amenities such as a splash pad, water feature, fountain or interactive art. The park could become a prominent location for the existing historic bell.

The Rambling River Center could become an outdoor flexible space. A garage renovation could be added with glass roll-up doors that would allow the public to dine outdoors at picnic tables. Lawn areas could be accessed in the sun and shade. The space could be rentable by residents to use indoors and outdoors in the area that adjoins the Rambling River senior center.

Existing parking could be reconfigured to improve efficiency and circulation. In this area, there is currently 66 parking spaces. After the redesign Concept A or Concept B, the area would gain two parking spaces and offer 68 parking spaces.

"We are always wanting to maximize the parking and balance it with features and amenities to offer different types of things in downtown," Kienberger said.

The park redesign would shift the focus away from the unattractive alley features.

Feedback, discussion

Hannah Simmons, a commissioner with Farmington Parks and Recreation Commission who also serves on Farmington's EDA (Economic Development Authority), looks forward to seeing downtown progress.

Simmons believes a plaza space could mean more opportunities for community social gatherings and may lead to seeing more foot traffic in downtown Farmington.

"I am really excited at the opportunity to add and invest in our downtown, especially with the features I see presented today," Simmons said.

"I prefer Concept A, but both have features I think are really important as I have a relatively new family with young children, so I think a splash pad would be a great addition to Farmington because I know many people are traveling to surrounding communities for that recreation activity."

"I think the addition of the green space and an outdoor café are going to really draw people because it has never been done before," said Simmons, a Farmington resident since 2014.

Urban designer Bryan Harjes visited with residents, collected feedback and answered questions about the two concept plans at the open house as residents looked over details on the design boards.

Urban design

The Minneapolis landscape architecture firm of Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc., has been part of the city's master planning.

"One of the initiatives was to look for more of a community gathering space in the downtown, and this is obviously one of the downtown's best opportunities for leveraging the Rambling River Center, and the opportunity for some additional outdoor space and we think this is a really great candidate for that," Harjes said.

A couple years ago, the HKGi firm redeveloped a commons park in Buffalo that stands as a good example, Harjes said, to create public space from a smaller back alley area.

"There could also be some small things to happen with the indoor and outdoor space of the Rambling River Center and out to the plaza, and some enhancements to the public realm like additional bike parking," Harjes said.

"Part of this process will be organizing and seeing how it manifests itself in the future, but tonight is really about getting the right ideas and concepts down, and then we will work hard to put that plan together," Harjes said.

Ultimately, the redevelopment plans will most likely be done in stages or phases over time. The city's redevelopment plans come after nine months and appointing a task force to work consultants and develop plans, Kienberger said.

This city has hosted three public open houses and were present at Farmington Expo to share the big picture ideas. "We want to make sure now we take the feedback to the consultants, so they can make revisions before the next parks and rec commission meeting," Kienberger said.

"This public plaza could be used for Dew Days or for daily use at lunch by anybody and it could become a public park and plaza, and the key to it all is the design is meant to be multi-functional," Kienberger said.

The plaza area could be a future site for vendors at arts and crafts events, or it could be a green space for potential outdoor concerts in the park associated with downtown events.

The City of Farmington will collect public input at the city's website at www.ci.farmington.mn.us/. Click on the Current News button and feedback will be collected until May 5.

To share information, contact Kienberger at 651-280-6820. Check out the six questions printed inside the More Information box of this story.

Public input will be compiled until Wednesday, May 17, when Farmington Parks and Recreation Commission meets to make recommendations before that information is shared with Farmington City Council at a future date.

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