Willmar Design Center wins state award for community initiatives
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Design Center has won a first-place award in a statewide contest showcasing cities and neighborhoods finding ways to share great ideas and improve their communities during challenging economic times.
The Design Center placed first in the category of neighborhoods within cities of 10,000 or more for the center's Historic Downtown Willmar project in the 25th Minnesota Community Pride Showcase competition. The results were announced this past Sunday at the Minnesota State Fair's Carousel Park. Willmar's prize included a check for $1,000.
Named runner up to Willmar was the Minneapolis Neighborhood Revitalization Program on behalf of 36 neighborhood organizations and their partners.
Beverly Dougherty, Design Center project coordinator, said Jane Leonard of contest co-sponsor Minnesota Rural Partners, announced Willmar as "the city in Minnesota with the most vision.''
The award was presented to Dougherty by Denny Baker, mayor of Spicer and representative from District 7 on the State Fair Board of Managers.
A total of 21 small-to-large cities competed in four population categories. Top winners among the finalists were selected by a public vote online via MinnPost.com during the week before the State Fair began. A total of 4,000 people voted.
The contestants included the city of Maynard for its events center. Maynard and three other cities received honorable mention.
Contest results and entry descriptions may be found on MinnPost.com.
After a visit to Willmar in early 2005 by the Minnesota Design Team, Willmar community members incorporated the Design Center as the entity to begin reviving and reinvigorating the city's historic downtown neighborhood, according to the Design Center's application.
As the Kandiyohi County seat, Willmar, a city of over 18,000 people, is an increasingly diverse regional center.
Volunteers and professionals working under the sponsorship of the Design Center have been guided by the four goals of restoring Litchfield Avenue, establishing a downtown commons, urbanizing First Street and connecting the downtown to area lakes and recreation trail.
The Design Center board approved the application. Dougherty displayed the center's downtown Visioneer and Becker Avenue concept design in the exhibition tent next to Carousel Park stage, where other cities also displayed their projects.
Dougherty was pleased to receive the award on behalf of the Design Center.
"It was really something because there were a lot of competitors,'' she said. "It just shows you what the volunteers have done for the last 4½ years. It's amazing.''
The contest was sponsored by the State Fair, MinnPost, The Blandin Foundation, and Minnesota Rural Partners.