Can the Brainerd corridor to be salvaged?
“Give us four years,” Chuck Lawson, president of the Midtown Council, said.
On Thursday, Lawson and other members of the Midtown Council launched the Midtown Campaign, designed to enrich, enlighten and energize the Brainerd community. The meeting was well-attended by local business owners, homeowners and community leaders.
The project includes plans—over the next four years—to allocate more scenic streetscapes and passive green spaces. CARTA has agreed to revamp the corridor’s many bus stops, for example. There will also be a renovation to the areas surrounding the Eastgate Town Center, including the library, which will focus on maintaining and highlighting the area’s rich history—specifically the Brainerd Mission.
In addition, a complete rebranding of the area has been suggested from the “Brainerd corridor” to the more modern and friendly “Midtown.” A new logo has been designed for the launch, and business owners and community residents are encouraged to join the campaign by displaying the “I am a Midtown Mover” slogan.
Members have also suggested a more intense focus on arts and a concept called “creative placemaking” for the community.
The National Endowment for the Arts defines “creative placemaking” as “the partnering of public, private, not-for-profit and community sectors to strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, tribe, city or region around arts and cultural activities.”
But there’s work to be done before Midtown can become what members hope it can be.
According to Barry Snyder, prospectus for the campaign, the initial phase of the proposed four-year project will focus on “cleaning up” the many blights along the corridor.
“When you have an area with a lot of pawnshops, you have a lot of crime,” Snyder said. “There are so many businesses who are in direct violation of codes.”
Snyder is referring to the many pawnshops, payday loan operations and other businesses with what he calls a “complete disregard” for city street codes.
“Take a look at Main Street,” Snyder said. “Once the eyesores were removed, professionals moved in, businesses opened and traffic started slowing down.”
Snyder hopes that the same can happen for the Brainerd corridor—from tunnel to airport.
During the presentation, many members of the council took turns addressing the audience and expressing their support for the campaign.
Lawson said he’s excited about the momentum behind the project in his community.
“We feel like people have forgotten about us,” he said. “ We have to revitalize, engage and excite. Great things are about to happen.”
Carol Berz is councilwoman for District 6, which includes the Brainerd area. She thinks the success of the campaign relies primarily on community input.
“And we have plenty of it,” she says. “The Midtown Council is par excellence. I’ve never seen a harder-working group of people who just 'get it.'”
Berz said the key to the entire operation, however, is economic development.
Local business owners in attendance agreed.
Peggy Rosselle is a member of the Midtown Council and owner of Out of the Blue, near the Brainerd tunnel. She said her business has slowed down recently because of the economy.
“The area has a positive energy right now," Rosselle said. "We need to use that energy to make a change."
She said that people don’t think of the Brainerd area as a single community but instead as separate, distinct areas along the road.
“I see the Midtown Campaign as bringing focus to the whole area,” she said. “We don’t want to lose the Brainerd identity, but it all needs to be a part of Midtown.”