[Featured Photo by Rick Pepper – Riverfront Drive through Old Town Mankato]

I am all in for revitalizing Old Town, and the way to do that is to make Riverfront Drive through Old Town into three lanes.

The city has released a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to update Riverfront Drive

I look at these options as a small business owner, as a building owner, and as a renter on the 500 block of Riverfront. No matter what hat I wear, three lanes is the best option and fits within the vision we created in Old Town as part of our Master Plan. (PDF downloads rather than opens.)

Economic Development

We need more folks who feel safe to walk and shop in Old Town. Our businesses need it to draw customers and our landlords need to show tenants that they should come do business in Old Town.

We don’t have to go far to look for some of that data on the economic impact of a three-lane project. The city of Fargo looked at the economic picture between a three-lane Main Avenue in downtown in the report Creating Value with Street Design: The Redesign of Main Avenue in Downtown Fargo. That report found that a three-lane would create $29 million in taxes, as opposed to $7 million for a five lane.

We need you supporters of Old Town! We look forward to showing the city that we are united to revitalize Old Town for community members of all abilities.

As a business owner and building owner, this makes perfect sense to me. More foot traffic in Old Town with accessible sidewalks, streets, and parking means more customers, which means more sales for Wooden Spoon and the other businesses in Old Town. Also, as a landlord, I will be in a better position to rent the spaces in Frost Plaza, as more businesses want to come down to a vibrant mecca of community.

Safety

When we design communities for folks who use walkers and wheelchairs, we all benefit from a safer, more walk-able community.

The three lane is far superior for the safety of pedestrians on the sidewalks and trying to cross Riverfront. I am able-bodied, and have done the frantic run across Riverfront many, many times.

Not everyone can do this dash. The bump-outs in the three-lane proposal are critical for those pedestrians in wheelchairs to be seen by motorists. Parents with young children can feel safer with larger sidewalks with a line of parking to protect those little ones who can escape a tight grip in seconds. And the three-lane option is safer for drivers. Having a protected turn lane reduces accidents. I have seen a lot of fender benders outside of Wooden Spoon, as folks try to turn into the parking lot. Everyone wins in the safety department with three lanes.

Creating Community

Old Town is amazing. We have the Silo Art Project at Ardent Mills that is going to be a major draw. And, with all the murals and artwork, Old Town is well-positioned to become a regional draw for creative place making. We want people out and about, walking around to enjoy art and conversation about the history of our community. To do this, we need it to be walk-able and we need parking, both key factors to the three-lane project.

As you will likely see this summer, The Hub is a community gathering space for people to enjoy music, food and connectivity.

We have residents who need free activities that are close to their living facilities, and The Hub provides some of those opportunities. For example, every Thursday afternoon, The Hub hosts the Mankato Farmers’ Market. If you haven’t gone to this free community event, it is hard to explain the sense of community it creates for people of all races and all economic categories. This should be what we are striving for as we look to create community in Mankato. The three-lane project shows that we are prioritizing those community members of all abilities and economic backgrounds.

Some of the Facts

No plan is perfect, but this one is pretty close. The city put together a great fact sheet (PDF downloads rather than opens) with, well, the facts of the project.

According to the city, travel times would only be impacted by, at most, 30 seconds. And the final plan may need some tweaks to account for some truck traffic. For example, we have trucks on Elm that need to turn left. We may need to give up the plan to have the 700 block be a three lane to make sure that they can turn safely.

The Iowa Department of Transportation has a great resource that debunks a lot of the myths that are coming up on social media right now, like traffic will back up or large vehicles can’t be accommodated.

What can you do to support Old Town?

Contact your City Council Member

Please contact your city council members to tell them you support Old Town and see the value of the three-lane option. You can find your city council member here.

Go to Sound Off Mankato

The city of Mankato has this great tool to gather community feedback: Sound Off Mankato. You can find the video with the various options and can leave comments. Please share your comment publicly so we can all see that there is support for Old Town.

Follow our Old Town Mankato Facebook page

Sometimes it is hard to know what to do or say. We are going to create materials for our Old Town supporters. We also plan on having community events to keep our community informed (there may be FREE treats at these events!) Follow us on Facebook or email me for more information: natasha@woodenspoonmn.com.

Weigh in on Social Media Posts

There are lots of posts and people who don’t like the idea of the three-lane option, and they are weighing in on The Free Press and KEYC social media sites. Some folks would rather see Old Town disappear and others don’t see the value of the business who are working every day to make our community better. We need others to weigh in. As a small business owner, I find it is hard to wade into the fray. Remember – small businesses are just that – small, so any negative feedback can create an economic impact. We need our supporters to take the lead on responding.

We need you supporters of Old Town! We look forward to showing the city that we are united to revitalize Old Town for community members of all abilities.

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The Local Stir is the regular column of Natasha Frost, Brigitte Rasmussen, and Nicole Lange who all happen to have Wooden Spoon in common. At its heart, The Local Stir is about food culture and life in the kitchen but along the way you’ll be touched by the personal lives of all three contributors as well as being stirred by some of their other passions.

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Author

  • Natasha Frost

    Natasha is the owner of <a href="http://woodenspoonmn.com/">Wooden Spoon</a>, a restaurant in the heart of Old Town Mankato. She is also a public health lawyer at a national non-profit. Natasha identifies as a cisgender, able-bodied white woman and an alcoholic in active recovery.