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Preliminary design proposals for downtown Willmar

Submitted drawing by Treeline Landscape Architecture.

Here are preliminary concept plans for downtown Willmar released Wednesday for public review. Submitted drawings by Submitted drawing by Treeline Landscape Architecture of Minneapolis.

Click on the links below to view the preliminary concepts for downtown Willmar.

Willmar downtown - glacial lakes concept

Willmar downtown - prairie trees concept

Willmar downtown - railroad concept

Willmar downtown - 3rd St. gateway

Willmar downtown - 7th St. gateway

Willmar downtown - Litchfield Ave. gateway

WILLMAR — Willmar’s railroad switching yard, the nearby forest and prairie lands, and the city’s glacial lakes geology are possible historic and natural themes for downtown gateways.

Establishing gateways is part of the downtown plan, recently adopted by the City Council, to help identify and strengthen entrances into the central business district.

A public selection process identified the entrances as First Street and Litchfield Avenue; Third Street Southwest and the U.S. Highway 12 bypass; the Benson Avenue Southwest exit off the Highway 12 bypass; and Litchfield Avenue and Seventh Street Southwest.

The city hired landscape architect Adam Arvidson of Treeline Landscape Architecture of Minneapolis to provide gateway concepts. The concept garnering the most support would be used at the gateways.

Arvidson presented the preliminary concepts Tuesday night to the City Council’s Public Works/Safety Committee. The concepts were also viewed by the public during an open house Wednesday evening at the City Office Building.

Arvidson also presented the concepts Wednesday night to the Planning Commission. The concepts will be placed at various downtown locations during the next couple of weeks to gather additional public comment.

One concept takes its inspiration from the geometry of the switching yard in which a custom-made metal railing along the boulevard could represent the woven interconnections of tracks found in many railroad yards.

In another preliminary concept, Willmar’s location between the deciduous forest region and the prairie region could be abstracted with a fence/rail of short rods with springs embedded to allow them to wiggle like grass in the wind and a “grove’’ of trees made from metal rods would have “leaves’’ that flash in the wind.

A third concept could create a playful country-vacation look with a boulevard fence/rail comprised of real glacial boulders interspersed with white rock-like “ice blocks’’ that glow at night.

“If we keep it kind of the same throughout, it will all feel like Willmar but will be adaptable to the particular conditions at each (gateway),’’ said Arvidson.

Arvidson said he will look for themes that capture people’s interest.

“It’s not really a vote, but more like about trying to gather which one captures the imagination of the community,’’ said Arvidson. “To me, that indicates that that’s the idea that with further exploration is really going to continue to resonate with the community. That’s the one that’s most appropriate.’’

The City Council will be asked to approve the concept. Cost estimates can then be built into the city’s long-range capital improvement budget, according to Bruce Peterson, city planning director who is also serving as interim city engineer.

Other gateway components besides horizontal and vertical elements include:

- Pavement modification with bricks and concrete placed in patterns to denote the downtown entrance.

- Curb bump-outs to provide more boulevard area for plantings and vertical and horizontal elements; and roadway medians to calm traffic flow.

- Murals painted on buildings to accentuate the gateway concept.

- Reducing sign clutter.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150