September 22, 2011 at 8:32 a.m.

Chisago Lakes Main Street Initiative not waiting around to revitalize area

Chisago Lakes Main Street Initiative not waiting around to revitalize area
Chisago Lakes Main Street Initiative not waiting around to revitalize area

The upcoming reconstruction of the highway through Lindstrom may seem like a headache to some, but for those involved in the Chisago Lakes Main Street Initiative next year's huge project is not seen as an impediment to the economic future of the area, but as a catalyst. The Main Street Initiative is embracing the one-way pairs rebuild as an opportunity to motivate people to step up and get active in "revitalizing" downtown.

When Lindstrom's new and improved look is finally complete the Initiative group plans to have a healthy selection of thriving commercial/retail already in place.

The Chisago Lakes Main Street Initiative came together as a non-profit specifically because the effort needs to be non-governmental.

Sonia Palmer, one of the organizers, said it isn't just Lindstrom's downtown that's being embraced-- the downtown areas of Chisago City, Center City, Shafer and Taylors Falls are also on the radar screen.(www.chisagolakesmainstreet.org)

Palmer explained that non-profit opportunities are out there but the group has to lay some groundwork first and the best way to pull this together is to keep the politics out of it. Towns like Park Rapids, she continued, have created their own beautiful destination-identities after one-way pairs have come in and Lindstrom will do the same. And, Lindstrom will bring along sister cities on Highway 8 working in partnership with economic development programs and other agencies. The Main Street Initiative is committed to improving the whole area.

Think of towns like Osceola and Stillwater and what they were perceived as about 15 years ago. "Chisago Lakes mainstreets can be thriving and profitable, destination locations," she stressed.

The Chisago Lakes Main Street Initiative plans to launch a retail business "incubator" program, where small business entrepreneurs will have a chance to "test the waters" of business ownership.

Palmer said the Initiative has support from the EDA and Chamber and hopes to build relations with others like the Historical Society and officeholders. "We ask that you speak well of this effort and of us when you're out and about and this comes up," Palmer recently asked of the Lindstrom City Council.

Palmer and Becky Carlson, a co- founder of the CLMI, have been giving presentations to affected city councils.

The approach uses a commercial district revitalization program based on the National Trust Main Street model. This is part streetscape design and historic preservation, part promotion, a lot of organization of on-going activities and festivals, and identifying what the area needs and lacks.

The Main Street Minnesota program is part of Preservation Alliance of Minnesota and counts five designated districts: Brainerd, Faribault, New Ulm, Red Wing and Willmar and over 20 towns are listed as "associate members."

In the first half of 2011 the Main Street program reported these five designated districts that were actively engaged in the program netted five new businesses and 57 new full-time jobs.

The CLMI needs people who like to serve on Boards and do policymaking but also needs people who want to be volunteers.

When the incubator launch is active it also needs entrepreneurs involved. Contact Palmer at 651-387-1214 if you have something to offer or just want to express your interest in helping. Or e mail her at soniapalmer@chisagolakesmain street.org


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