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Willmar Design Center wins state preservation award

WILLMAR -- The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota has named the Willmar Design Center a preservation award winner for the center's work with improving downtown business facades through the Main Street Design Project. The project assisted 11 businesses.

The downtown project was funded partly with $365,137 from an $814,790 federal Small Cities grant to the Willmar Housing and Redevelopment Authority in 2010. In addition, a combination of $184,281 in private commercial funds and $20,389 in other public money brought the total spent on the project to $569,807.

The remainder of the 2010 grant, in combination with private funds and other government sources, was used for rehabilitation of 16 owner-occupied homes in Willmar and seven owner-occupied homes in Pennock.

The Willmar Design Center was one of 12 organizations, projects and individuals to be named 2012 Minnesota Preservation Award winners for work in adapting, restoring, rehabilitating and reusing properties and other preservation activities.

Beverly Dougherty, Design Center project coordinator, said the list of winners "testifies to the great work we are doing.''

The Willmar Design Center and other award winners will be honored Sept. 20 during the Minnesota Preservation Gala at The Ford Center in Minneapolis.

Will O'Keefe, Preservation Alliance communication and program coordinator, said 2012 marks the 28th year in which the alliance is honoring the best preservation projects and individuals.

O'Keefe said the awards program is the organization's way of recognizing exceptional preservation projects across the state. He said the alliance accepted more than 50 nominations and he said Willmar's was among those chosen for recognition.

"The response to our call for nominations continues to demonstrate that preserving our heritage is a value across the state. Our expert jury had much discussion and debate in choosing the projects that best fulfilled the judging criteria,'' he said.

Following the successful 2010 grant, the Willmar HRA earlier this year applied for a second Small Cities grant. Mayor Frank Yanish announced on the city's website that the city received $1,076,162.

The money will be used to rehabilitate owner-occupied and commercial properties in Willmar and rehab properties in Raymond.

The Willmar Design Center is a local nonprofit focusing on revitalizing downtown Willmar and making it a destination for all, according to the center's website.

The Design Center was established after a group of volunteers looking for new ideas to improve the city enlisted the help of the Minnesota Design Team in 2005. The Design Team specializes in helping communities plan their future through grassroots involvement, volunteerism and quality design.

Out of these sessions and public meetings, the Willmar Design Center was formed and goals were established.

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota is a statewide, private, nonprofit organization providing information, tools and advocacy for the preservation of Minnesota's historic resources, according to its website.

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