The Friends of Downtown Northfield began as the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation (NDDC), a nonprofit Minnesota corporation founded in May of 2000 by Northfield residents Bardwell Smith, Keith Covey, Brett Reese and Jim Braucher. Dave Lyon assisted them in their efforts.
The four founding members of the NDDC worked together on the long-range planning a development task force of the Northfield Chamber of Commerce. Over a twelve-month period, beginning in the summer of 1999, they considered ways to keep the downtown viable in the face of increased competition from fringe development and other economic forces. As a result of their thoughtful analysis and shared insights, they realized that an organization like the NDDC would be an effective way of working with other groups in the community to maintain the viability of our downtown business district and to make Northfield an even more remarkable place to live.
Since that time the NDDC has found support in all parts of the Northfield community including the City of Northfield which gave the organization $20,000 in its first year as seed money to help the NDDC become an established and effective organization. In addition, the organization received a $1,000 grant from the SE Minnesota Initiative Fund. These grants assisted in the hiring of a part-time research associate. Over the years, the NDDC has received private sector support from the annual Partnership Campaign and public support from either the Economic Development Authority or the City Council.
On the advice of the NDDC’s first executive director, the organization adopted the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program. The program has four points: organizing, promoting, designing, and economic restructuring. Over the years, the NDDC’s annual work plan has included activities in all four of these areas. The NDDC strives to get stakeholders working together to achieve shared goals, market the unique characteristics of the downtown to generate investments in the community, capitalize on the district’s physical assets through strategic infrastructure investments, and strengthen existing economic assets while recruiting compatible economic contributors through incremental additional investments.
The NDDC participated in the Downtown Strategies Committee process initiated by the Northfield City Council in 2003. The goal of this project was to develop a coherent and consistent plan for both structural and operational improvements in Downtown Northfield. The project outcome was a plan document called “Downtown Improvement Strategies” facilitated by the firm of Dahlgren, Shardlow & Uban and adopted by the City Council in early 2004.
An outgrowth of this project was the creation of the Mayor’s Downtown Streetscape Task Force and the 2006 publication of a second DSU document titled “Downtown Northfield Streetscape Framework Plan.” The NDDC was very active in this effort as well.