by Sarah Squires
What will Winona look like in 10, 20, even 30 years? How will people get around, where and what kind of new houses will be built; how will Levee Park change?
These questions might not be answered right away, but the possibilities for the future of Winona are on the table.
A steering committee, along with the city's Downtown Revitalization and Riverfront committees are currently working with a consultant from URS, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm, on a comprehensive plan for the city. The groups have been meeting and discussing ideas for about a year now, and are rounding the corner on completion. Joe Barbeau, City Planner, said that a draft should be ready for the City Council to review sometime in January or February.
This comprehensive plan will not dictate exactly how the city will change in the coming years, but it will provide the city with drawings, ideas and visions for how to grow.
Things like transportation, land use, housing, economic development and environmental protection are what the plan will address, but it will focus more detail on the downtown and riverfront areas.
Barbeau said that the plan will list potential places for things like a parking ramp downtown, or diagonal parking locations. The City Council requested Monday that the group look specifically at long and short-term parking in the downtown areas that seem to be hard-pressed for parking spots.
The plans will not make any recommendation about the Wilkie, said Barbeau, but might provide some ideas for the spot if the structure were to be torn down. He said that there wasn't a big ticket item or plan currently for something different in that location, and that the committee was "sort of waiting."
The plans will list possible locations for a convention center in Winona, something that a recent Winona State University survey indicated most Winonans were interested in.
Where and how the city should expand will also be addressed, along with what types of housing needs the city has, such as senior housing or starter-type homes. Finding riverfront areas that can be highlighted, possibly with new residential building sites, is also being examined.
Barbeau said that creating a better visual and physical relationship between the downtown area and Levee Park will also be discussed, and one of the ideas that will come up is the removal of the rail yard behind Second Street and in front of the park. This was one of the projects listed as possibly being completed through the city's failed 2006 half-cent sales tax referendum, which voters denied in November.
Transportation needs are a big part of growth, said Barbeau, but it's not all about roads and bridges. "The transportation network is not just about moving cars, it's about moving people," he said. He added that Winona has high populations in smaller areas, making it highly conducive to walking or biking to get around. Focusing on how to maximize people's ability to walk or bike as safely and efficiently as possible is a big piece of the transportation puzzle, he said.