ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

A new look is coming to downtown Willmar

Willmar’s downtown streetscape plan is coming together with a new design that will meet the requirements of the Small Cities grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

A cyclist cruises through the intersection of Becker Avenue and 4th Street in downtown Willmar on Thursday, July 14, 2022. Through the help of Willmar's downtown streetscape plan, this intersection, among others, will see the installation of bump-outs meant to slow traffic and make the walking distance from curb to curb shorter for pedestrians.
A cyclist cruises through the intersection of Becker Avenue and Fourth Street Southwest in downtown Willmar on Thursday, July 14, 2022. Through Willmar's downtown streetscape plan, this intersection, among others, will see the installation of mobile bump-outs meant to slow traffic and make the walking distance from curb to curb shorter for pedestrians. They can be placed in the summer and removed in the winter.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
We are part of The Trust Project.

WILLMAR — Willmar’s downtown streetscape plan is coming together with a new design that will meet the requirements of the Small Cities grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Kandiyohi County Housing and Redevelopment Authority is applying for a grant extension to allow the city time to complete the project, due to the grant’s expiration in September 2022, according to Willmar Planning and Development Director Justice Walker.

Walker updated the Willmar City Council on the project at the July 5 council meeting.

The city was awarded a $750,000 Small Cities grant from DEED, with $400,000 earmarked for the streetscape project and $350,000 for improvements and renovations at the Lakeview Apartment building at 300 Seventh St. N.W.

The city contracted with Bolton & Menk to complete the final design of the project. However, DEED told the city that the design did not fit the scope of the grant due to the extensive road and stormwater work that would be needed to accommodate the curb bump-outs — work that DEED said is not eligible for grant funding, according to Walker.

ADVERTISEMENT

curb.extensions.jpg
Mobile curb extensions are to be installed in downtown Willmar to slow traffic and create a shorter distance for pedestrians to walk from one side of the street to the other. These can be removed during the winter so they do not impede snow removal.
Contributed

Bump-outs are a curb extension into the parking lane meant to slow traffic and make the walking distance from curb to curb shorter for pedestrians.

Bolton & Menk’s design included redoing the city's curb and gutters to construct the bump-outs and would have cost the city $130,000 on top of the grant funds.

That design had been distilled to only one intersection of downtown — Fourth Street and Litchfield Avenue Southwest.

“If you would have seen the initial proposal, it was more spread out around downtown; it had a much larger breadth of downtown,” Walker told the council.

After learning that the design was not in line with the grant specifications from DEED, the city terminated the contract with Bolton & Menk and city staff took on the design of the project.

parklet.buffers.jpg
Benches and planters will be distributed throughout downtown Willmar to create a more inviting atmosphere.
Contributed

With the redesign, the project was able once again to expand to additional intersections downtown by using mobile bump-outs that can be placed in the summer and removed in the winter.

“As you can see with this plan, there are tree plantings, there is a clock involved, there are multiple parklets,” Walker said.

Parklets are small "green spaces" near the curb, usually in the parking lane, with seating and other amenities.

ADVERTISEMENT

Map.jpg
An updated preliminary design for the downtown streetscape plan shows how much more of downtown Willmar will benefit from the Small Cities grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Contributed

Also alleviated by using mobile bump-outs are the concerns from downtown business owners about a decrease in parking and concerns from the Willmar Public Works Department about plowing snow around the bump-outs.

A pedestrian walks between passing vehicles along the intersection of Becker Avenue and 4th Street in downtown Willmar on Thursday, July 14, 2022. The intersection is one of a handful in downtown Willmar that will see the addition of bump-outs to increase pedestrian safety and to slow traffic.
A pedestrian walks between passing vehicles along the intersection of Becker Avenue and Fourth Street Southwest in downtown Willmar on Thursday, July 14, 2022. The intersection is one of a handful in downtown Willmar that will see the addition of bump-outs to increase pedestrian safety and to slow traffic. Streetscape plans also include new tree plantings downtown and the creation of small green spaces with seating.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Showing the council a map of the city staff-designed streetscape, Walker explained how the redesign is spreading the $400,000 throughout downtown.

Three intersections and several blocks of streets will be improved with the new design. The intersections that will have mobile bump-outs installed are Fourth Street and Litchfield Avenue Southwest, Fourth Street and Becker Avenue Southwest, and Fifth Street and Litchfield Avenue Southwest.

More by Jennifer Kotila:
A $200,000 federal grant to the city of Willmar will be used to complete a citywide Safety Action Plan to address safety, accessibility and equity concerns throughout the city’s transportation system.
Any resident or business in the state of Minnesota that does not have wired broadband internet service of at least 25 megabits per second downloading speed and 3 megabits per second for uploads is now eligible to apply for this program.
The process to create a new logo for Willmar Municipal Utilities has taken several years, but it is being rolled out to customers this month.
The longer Willmar Municipal Utilities can keep the wind turbines spinning, the better the cost-to-benefit ratio will be in the long run.

City staff worked with the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office to reach an agreement for the grant design standards, and it was recommended by city staff to contract with Wausau Tile to provide the benches, planters and mobile bump-outs needed to complete the project.

After he was asked if the project is something for which the city should seek requests for proposals, Walker informed the council he contacted numerous local masonry companies and was told by all of them that what he was looking for was a specialized niche and he should contact Wausau Tile — that they were the sole-source proprietor for the materials which the city was installing.

The council authorized the city to accept the quote from Wausau Tile in the amount of $191,345 plus shipping.

In the meantime, while the city awaits the products from Wausau Tile, city staff will be gathering pricing for plants, dirt and trees from local nursery and landscaping companies to complete the project.

Items that will be provided by Wausau Tile include a large variety of benches and planters that will be used to create bump-outs and parklets. It also includes benches that will wrap around some of the 40-plus hackberry and Triumph elm trees proposed to be planted downtown.

ADVERTISEMENT

tree.bench.jpg
Benches like the one pictured will encircle some of the 40-plus trees that will be planted throughout downtown Willmar as part of a streetscape project.
Contributed

Another feature that will recreate some of the history of downtown Willmar is the installation of a clock that replicates a historic clock that used to be in downtown Willmar. Former Willmar Main Street Coordinator Willard Huyck found a clockmaker that can recreate the clock.

“One of his last acts was getting together and finding a clockmaker in the country,” Walker said. “He found this clockmaker and it’s going to be an exact replica of the old Diamonds and Jewelry clock.”

clock.jpg
A clock similar to the one pictured will be installed as part of the downtown Willmar streetscape plan. It is a replica of a clock that had been located downtown in the past.
Contributed

Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: jkotila@wctrib.com or phone at 320-214-4339.
What To Read Next
With the help of state and federal funds, homes and businesses in Lake Elizabeth, East Lake Lillian and Harrison townships in Kandiyohi County could have broadband connections within two years.
News about educational achievements among students from west central Minnesota.
Area funerals scheduled through Feb. 13, 2023
Since its inception in 2011, Glacial Ridge Curling's Adaptive Program continues to help those with cognitive or physical challenges learn the sport in an accepting environment.