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Group works on business plan to promote downtown Litchfield, Minn.

The Litchfield Downtown Restoration Commission is working to re-establish downtown Litchfield as the heart of the community. The group is working on a business plan and pursuing funding sources. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

LITCHFIELD — The volunteer group hoping to reestablish downtown Litchfield as the heart of the community is working on a business plan as a requirement for receiving funding assistance from the City Council.

During a Feb. 19 presentation, members of Litchfield Downtown Restoration Commission discussed their group’s purpose and highlighted the benefits of partnering with Minnesota Main Street, a nonprofit organization assisting cities with historic preservation and commercial and economic development.

Council members did not promise any funding but required the group to write a business plan and pursue other funding sources.

The timeline established by the commission sets May 1 as the date for creating the business plan.

“They want us to come up with a more detailed budget and a business plan and we’ll go back and present that,” says Robyn Richardson, interim chair of Litchfield Downtown Redevelopment Commission.

The commission was formed in December after citizens and property and business owners got together at a town hall-style meeting in October to discuss ideas for improving downtown.

The commission will work to foster a vibrant community through a unified effort to improve, promote and support the downtown; capitalize on Litchfield’s unique qualities, assets and characteristics; and create and maintain a safe and prosperous community environment.

Richardson said the commission is looking for other funding, but the focus now is preparing the business plan. Also, they’ll be starting later this month on obtaining federal tax exempt status, which the commission hopes to complete in October.

The commission believes downtown is a symbol of the community’s economic health and is a partnership between the private and public sectors. They also believe the downtown is a symbol of quality of life, local pride and community history.

Richardson said commission members walked through downtown last Saturday to determine the physical boundaries of the Main Street district. Richardson said they’ll be using the following criteria:

- Centrality: Is the area a traditional central business district or center for social and economic interaction?

- Heritage: Is the area characterized by a cohesive core of historic or significant commercial and mixed-use buildings that represent the community’s architectural and cultural heritage?

- Arrangement: Is the area arranged with most of the buildings side-by-side along a main street with intersecting side streets?

- Scale: Is the area compact, easily walkable, and pedestrian-friendly?

Besides requesting a business plan, the council asked the commission to get other business owners to become members.

“I’m looking for more people to join us. We need more volunteers because there’s a lot of work to do,” Richardson said.

One involved business person is Peter Schoell, owner of the Hollywood Theatre. He said a few downtown buildings have been vacant for almost as long as he has owned the theater since 1994.

“I hope it all works out. There have been some other programs before. But they were always kind of tied to something else. There’s always strings attached,” Schoell said.

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