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City leaders agree on vision statement for Hwy. 3 Corridor Plan

Rendering courtesy of WSB & Associates, Inc.

A new vision has been crafted for the Highway 3 Corridor Plan in Farmington.

A joint work session was held April 8 at Farmington City Hall with representatives from Farmington City Council, the Economic Development Authority and the Planning Commission.

Project manager Eric Maass with WSB & Associates, Inc. shared an update and led discussion among the three groups in an hour-and-a-half presentation.

The governmental bodies agreed on a vision statement to articulate a focus for the long-term Highway 3 project.

Four goals

Four goals outline a strategic process to make progress on the Highway 3 Corridor Plan and gives short-, mid- and long-term strategies to achieve each goal.

"There is a lot of redevelopment that we want to do and having new buildings and different businesses is obviously part of the project, but the safety of the roadway itself is among the concern of a lot of people," Farmington Planning Commission member Phil Windschitl said.

The first goal will be to work toward making improvements to the attractiveness and visual cohesiveness of the Highway 3 corridor.

Under this goal, the first short-term strategies will be to develop design standards that will guide and shape future redevelopment. Another short-term strategy will engage property owners to clean up nuisance properties through proactive code enforcement.

Two midterm strategies outline ways to access funds via Community Development Block Grants and calls for applying for Dakota Community Development Agency loans to assist in the cleanup of low- to moderate-income residential properties.

Another midterm strategy would be to consider developing an incentive program for Highway 3 properties, similar to Farmington's Downtown Façade Improvement Plan.

Two long-term strategies would encourage activation within existing commercial areas through community events. Another strategy calls for the continued coordination with Castle Rock and Empire townships on the orderly annexation agreements.

A second goal will be to facilitate redevelopment and support a vibrant corridor.

The short-term strategies will review existing land use designations and update those to reflect a corridor that emphasizes a mix of land uses.

A mid-term strategy states the city could leverage grant programs to provide redevelopment grants that encourage property owners to invest in redevelopment and revitalization.

Long-term strategies call for promoting the economic and physical health of the corridor as a means to strengthen connections with local businesses within the corridor and expand and diversify the tax base.

A third goal will implement new city signage and create wayfinding signs along the corridor that can encourage drivers to visit downtown Farmington.

Under this goal, one short-term strategy calls for continued work with the Minnesota Department of Transportation as the city will obey its guidelines and templates within MnDOT's right-of-way signage.

One long-term strategy calls for the creation of a downtown identity. The city will work to create wayfinding pathways throughout the corridor highway and onto bike and pedestrian trails. This wayfinding work will be done in tandem with Castle Rock and Empire townships.

"We were presented with a couple of concept photos of different intersections and what they could look like," Farmington City Council member Joshua Hoyt said. "This could take 20, 30 and 50 years to come into its final phases so it may not be in my lifetime."

The vision will help city leaders and staff work on trying to define intersections and what kind of housing in certain areas of town.

Next steps

The project manager will work with the governmental team to move forward with the next steps to construct architectural design recommendations, prepare market feasibility and discuss tools and programs to lay out plans for future development.

A public open house is scheduled for April 22 to inform the public of goals, zoning and studies. A draft plan open house is slated for May 13. A joint work session with the EDA and Planning Commission is scheduled for May 23.

Farmington City Council will receive an updated Highway 3 Corridor Plan at the June 17 meeting.

"The city is not deciding to come in with eminent domain to take property or force anyone to sell," Hoyt said.

Comparing the Highway 3 Corridor Plan to the evolution of Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley, Hoyt said Highway 3 will eventually become a major arterial north and south roadway.

"We are looking at slowly and progressively make changes with this vision and we are looking ahead so no one will have to remodel buildings because we did not have a plan in place," Hoyt said.