If you’ve followed Stillwater news lately, you’ve been treated to a few interesting stories. In the shadow of all of that you may have missed one that I think is pretty important.
This image was floated around social media recently. It’s an old story and I didn’t give it much thought really until a customer came in and told me that this is what Stillwater will look like when the bridge is finished. She was surprised to learn, after a conversation with me, that this is not a plan that has been approved or even designed by the City of Stillwater.
The Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce’s initiative, the Downtown Revitalization Committee, commissioned a group of architects to come up with a plan for downtown. These very skilled architects donated their time to come up with this concept. I’ll admit that it does look pretty cool.
But just because they have drawn these plans up, doesn’t mean they will come to be.
This concept was designed without city planners, historic preservation committee members, or other city staff. This concept was designed assuming no obstacles. Obstacles like delivery trucks that cross Chestnut all day long. Obstacles like the increase in property taxes that businesses, already paying high rents, are going to have to absorb for these changes. These changes won’t come free to building and business owners. How about the construction that will have to happen to get this done? Businesses will have to live with more construction on our front door steps after surviving through years of bridge construction? I know I seem like a Debbie downer but these are realities that will need to be considered.
And, then just because it CAN happen, does that mean it SHOULD?
This plan also includes widening sidewalks and putting in sidewalk cafes and trees. That sound’s great too, but if we do all those things, what do we lose? Do we lose our history? We don’t want to look like any other shopping and dining district. We don’t want to become 50th and France or Woodbury Lakes. We are historic Stillwater MN for gosh sakes!
I think most people who have been around Stillwater long enough, locals, they would say one of the worst things that our city ever did was tear down the old Depot building. Can you imagine if this building was still around? It was raised in 1960 to put up a grocery store. I wasn’t around in 1960 but I’ll bet many people thought it was a good idea. Had I been around then I might have even thought it was a great idea. How terrific it must have been to finally have a grocery downtown (and I think people have fond memories of that grocery store too) But that store is also gone and a parking lot sits in it’s place. Progress?
People complain that there isn’t a drugstore or hardware store downtown anymore. They say that downtown is just not like it used to be. If we do these modern changes to our streets, I fear we’ll be even further away from our history. We need to be very careful not to trade our history for what could be a fleeting moment that some see as progress.
Luckily, our voices can be heard. I’ll keep you updated on city meetings and hope that if you care, you’ll come to one:)