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Facade designs for store fronts will enhance the look of downtown businesses

Downtown Park Rapids businesses are receiving recommendations for façade designs to tie in with the Downtown Revitalization Plan.

Mark Hewitt, with the Hewitt Family Charitable Fund/Northwoods Bank, is providing a $15,000 grant to cover costs for Widseth Smith Nolting architectural firm, of Bemidji, to design these suggestions.

The grant will also cover costs for an overall concept to tie all of downtown into a network with a stronger branding.

The façade project coincides with the city's Main Avenue reconstruction project slated for next summer but is separate from the city project.

Last week, Ellis Jones, Chairman of the Park Rapids Downtown Revitalization Committee, introduced WSN Architect Paul Richards to business owners. Richards has taken photos of each of the downtown businesses and has researched historical information for them.

The targeted businesses are along Main Avenue from blocks one through five and Second, Third and Fourth streets one block east and west of Main.

During the meetings last week with business owners, Jones said Richards was able to get an idea from some of the merchants about what they would like to see in a new façade.

Richards met with nearly all the business owners but will continue to try and make contact with those he hasn't seen.

The next step is to develop three or four overall general concepts for the entire downtown. Then, WSN will conduct an informational meeting with individual owners and stakeholders. At this meeting, WSN will present the findings of the historical research and individual owner interviews, along with the overall design concepts and recommendations for alternative material selections, Jones said. The architects will also ask for comment to help focus and guide the design process.

Initial sketches will then be developed for each storefront for review and comment by individual business owners. Then, final revisions will be made and final sketches will be delivered.

Jones stressed that downtown business aren't required or obligated to go ahead with the façade work. He hopes many of the businesses will take advantage of this opportunity, though.

The project is anticipated to take three months to complete.

"We've heard a lot of positive comments about this," Jones said. "We've got some challenging times ahead but the end result will be an overall, improved downtown."