Implementing the Downtown Strategies Plan

Ross Currier wrote this piece for a recent issue of the Northfield News. It summarizes the NDDC’s work for 2003 and priorities for 2004. It also underscores our commitment to collaboratively directing the affairs of our Downtown in partnership with all interested businesses and organizations.


Downtown Northfield is important to the entire community, not just downtown building and business owners. This unanimous affirmation by participants emerged as the most significant finding of the recently completed Downtown Strategies planning process.

Implementation of the plan comes next. The plan outlines four action categories: public infrastructure improvements, a marketing plan, designating a Downtown management organization, and planning for Downtown development and redevelopment.

Fortunately, there is an existing organization that has been working on many of these issues for the past four years and will continue working on these issues into the future. Since 2000, the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC) has been bringing Downtown stakeholders together, focusing attention on Downtowns challenges and opportunities, and advocating that Downtown is the most fundamental asset owned by the citizens of Northfield. Our organization has worked cooperatively with City Staff, elected officials, the Chamber of Commerce, the Northfield Arts Guild, the Northfield Historical Society, and others towards the common goal of strengthening and sustaining Downtown Northfield.

In 2003, the NDDC accomplished a number of action steps. We conducted our first capital campaign, surpassing our goal of $25,000 in our progress to become self-sustaining. We partnered with the Citys Public Works Department on a Downtown maintenance project (painting Riverwalk railings). We held twelve monthly meetings giving dynamic Downtown partner organizations a forum for showcasing their work. We created an inclusive database of all downtown building and business contact information. Finally, we partnered with Northfields Economic Development Authority to revise the terms of its Downtown Revolving Loan Fund. This last step has the potential of stimulating ten or more building owners to enhance their building exteriors or storefronts this year.

Our priorities for 2004 include solidifying our membership base, securing grant money for funding specific projects, implementing parts of the 2002 Downtown Parking Task Force, continuing to partner with the City on Downtown cleanup and maintenance issues, creating a mechanism for better private garbage control, developing a plan for marketing Downtown Northfield as a concept, and partnering with the Chamber of Commerce on Downtown promotions and events.

Members of the NDDC staff and Board, as well as many of its Downtown partners participated in the planning process. We attended meetings as members of the Downtown Strategies Steering Committee, the marketing and commercial development focus groups, and the Downtown Organization Sub-committee. We were enthusiastic about the goals of the initiative and supportive of the process. At its conclusion, we would like to thank the Mayor, the City Council, and City Staff for organizing the effort and inviting the NDDC to be a participant.

The process brought people together and mobilized Northfield to strengthen its geographic, economic, and social center. It focused attention on Downtown as an organic whole, simultaneously comprised of commercial, residential, cultural, and environmental attributes. It publicly recognized Downtown Northfields unique challenges and opportunities, perhaps for the first time in the citys history. All participants spoke passionately about their visions for Downtown. While there wasnt unanimity about all of the ideas discussed and all of the outcomes, there remains the unanimous goal of making Northfields Downtown district the best that it can be.

The process produced tangible products. A preliminary housing study was conducted, predicting the number and type of housing units needed in the next ten years. A commercial market overview was created, suggesting possibilities for economic development in Downtown. Perhaps most powerful, many existing ideas were gathered together from Downtown stakeholders, summarized, and reported back to the Downtown Strategies Steering Committee.

Moving forward, we need to secure the necessary private and public financial commitments to make Downtown Northfield even more dynamic and attractive than it already is. There has been a historic need for additional financial resources for Downtown. For many Downtown stakeholders, most valuable would be a detailed, long-term capital improvement and annual maintenance plans for Downtown public improvements. For others, plans for retention of existing business and recruitment of desired businesses are essential for economic viability.

The NDDC, too, sees a bright future for Downtown Northfield. But the key steps to making that bright future a reality will be found only by working out hundreds, if not thousands of details. Weve got our sleeves rolled up and weve already begun working out these details. We invite our partners to join us in this sometimes challenging but rewarding work.