La Crescent’s recently adopted downtown plan envisions a new “municipal building” on the southeast corner of Main and Oak streets that would house city hall, the police department and the library.

The proposed municipal building is one of several ambitious goals detailed in the downtown plan, which like the city’s new Blufflands Plan, is more of a starting point for discussion than a set of concrete proposals, said Donald Smith, the chairman of the city’s planning commission.

The municipal building could be a catalyst for downtown growth, Smith said, while also sending out an important message to potential residents and businesses. The current City Hall “is cramped, poorly configured to serve its many functions, and a poor reflection of the La Crescent community,” the plan notes.

“If we’re not willing to invest here, why would anyone else?” Smith said.

The document, which Smith described as an off-shoot of the city’s comprehensive plan, proposes the redevelopment of the entirety of the south side of Main Street between Walnut and Oak streets.

The east end, currently home to Quillin’s, would feature “a multi-story commercial and residential building” with the west end anchored by the new municipal building.

Between the two sites, a new public square could be developed that would “extend out into the street in place of some on-street parking.” There would be more parking behind the new “Main Street Square,” accessed by the alley. Trees, water fountains and benches would be added to the square, according to the plan.

Smith emphasized that the plan is a framework that can be used for more detailed planning and to help attract new investment to the downtown.

Detailed costings of the proposals in the document have not been made.

La Crescent City Council adopted the downtown plan unanimously last month and the 45-page document is available for public review from City Hall.

Another key part of the plan is for the city to encourage more upper story apartment units in downtown La Crescent, as a way to fuel growth and attract younger families to the city. Smith said it was important to have a vision for the city that involves attracting new residents to La Crescent.

“The principle is that La Crescent will never have everything it wants if the only people that use it is ourselves,” he said.

The area considered to be “downtown” for the plan extends from Veteran’s Park at the north to the Elementary School at the south, and it includes sites east of highway 14/61 and west of Oak Street.

La Crescent Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Eileen Krenz said she views the plan largely in a positive light. However, she said that as the city moves forward with the plan as a template, existing downtown business must be included in the process every step of the way.

Anne Hendrickson, a La Crescent resident who provided input for the downtown plan, said the plan sought to balance a desire to preserve what people already like about the city’s downtown, while looking for ways to improve it.

“A common theme we heard in the planning process was that we need to keep the close-knit feel of the community alive, but freshen things up to compete with local offerings in neighboring communities,” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean mirroring what others around us are doing; it really means playing to our strengths.”

Those strengths include supporting the needs of existing local businesses, while looking for opportunities to bring new businesses to the city.

“Throughout the planning process, we clearly heard that we have an opportunity to better capitalize on the scenic beauty and recreational resources that surround us every day,” Hendrickson said. “The idea of making downtown a more inviting place for residents, as well as visitors, to spend time while enjoying the recreational assets that are so much a part of us seemed to be an idea that resonated with those involved in the process.”

The downtown plan was put together with the input of the planning commission, community members, city officials, local businesses and put together by consultants from MSA Professional Services.

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Coulee Courier and Houston County News editor

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