Oct. 23 Bridge Square open house: documents, comments, feedback

John Slack Dan Bergeson Marcia Klopf

After some opening remarks by Bridge Square project consultant John Slack at last night’s Bridge Square planning open house, Dan Bergeson from the Mayor’s Streetscape Task Force (MSTF) spoke briefly about why the project is happening and why now. He also talked  talking about the MSTF and its role, as well as how the project fits with the May 2006 Downtown Northfield Streetscape Framework Plan.

Marcia Klopf, St. Olaf student intern working on the project, then provided the audience with an in-depth history of Bridge Square (see slides 11-39 below). John Slack followed with an overview of the community uses of Bridge Square (slides 40-45).

John Slack invited the audience to participate with comments, questions, ideas, and memories of Bridge Square. See the album of 45 photos but here are photos of nearly everyone who spoke:

Steve Edwins Hayes Scriven Cliff Clark

David Hvistendahl Paul Niemisto Paul Cloak

Jim Pokorney Judy Code Dale Gehring

Marcia Klopf took these notes on those who spoke. We’ve tried to match up the comments below with the names of the people who made them, but we’ve missed a few. If you were there and can help us out, attach a comment to this blog.

  • Cliff Clark: What is our idea of the boundaries of Bridge Square? The Cannon River, but not the Riverfront going to 5th St.; enhancing the connections to Bridge Square; Importance of Connectivity
  • Lin Bruce: The fountain was a gift to the city from Sheldahl, the only place to put it at the time was in Bridge Square; the only place in the Square at the time was the location of the flowerbeds
  • Paul Niemisto: 3 Structures in Bridge Square- are they really permanent? Maybe the better question is if they are permanently in Bridge Square
  • Sarah Beimers: National Register (1980): surveyor for John North marked the public square from the very beginning; 1856 Northfield records; The irregular shape of the squares may be because of the stones- somewhat follow the river; John North was from the Northeast and he valued having the public space for gatherings as many towns in the Northeast were designed to accommodate; idea of having a Village Commons- a green space/town square (this was also a business decision for North as it served dual purpose as a parking lot for his mill); 2 public spaces originally designated for Northfield
  • (?????) Does there need to be more flexibility in the Square?
  • (?????) Daily use just as important as the programmed uses throughout the year
  • Cliff Clark: 1970s: “Save Our River” campaign, to beautify the space of the river, extended place in the town; part of the city wide plans; The Square doesn’t exist in isolation; Look at how to engage the river
  • David Hvistendahl: Grass isn’t functional now because of the intense use of the Square, it is extremely difficult to maintain; suggestion to instead use raised planters which could also be used as seating (he mentioned that one of the most important issues to address was the lack of adequate seating in Bridge Square); using semi-permeable surfaces in the square
  • (Paul Cloak) Automobile Parking, especially along Division Street; What becomes the solution for Bridge Square may set the precedent/be an inspiration for elsewhere in Northfield; Possibility of creating a primarily pedestrian space
  • (?????) Not turning our back to the river
  • (?????) Bridge Square as an island; look at the traffic pattern and flow; closing roads during large events, something that is really appreciated and possibly even an idea to expand past the time of these events
  • John Slack: Possibly perform traffic counts as part of the study
  • Jim Pokorney: Memory – he stated that people know Bridge Square differently based on if you can walk there or if you have to drive there; says he’s been here for about 20 years and when he first moved here he walked his 6mo old to the Square, she played in the fountain while he talked with a senior citizen, they quickly became friends; this is the idea of Bridge Square- small town ways of having a conversation with anyone around, wanting to meet new people; The Square changes from day to day, from week to week; it is a multi-use space and this is something that should be stressed during the project. Bridge Square is not just a place for tourists or for locals, it is a place that accommodates everyone
  • Judy Code: flowers in Bridge Square and Riverwalk; not enough seating and no irrigation plan; can we spread the seating out along the Riverwalk by putting benches elsewhere rather than all concentrated in Bridge Square? To accommodate for larger numbers of people but also to protect the flowers by putting benches in front of parts of them to direct people in different ways; possibly putting concrete or bricking in elsewhere as well as an irrigation system?
  • Dale Gehring: Need for more space- do we need the street by the Post Office? (the one right in front of the NHS, which also does not have a name) If we get rid of this street, will the mailbox also move?
  • Jim Pokorney: Post Office- is this part of the plan? It’s a critical element to a successful Bridge Square; Making sure that it’s part of considerations as we move forward

Some comments to to Marcia after official meeting ended:

  • (?????) Think about the trees as well and the permanence of the trees
  • Cliff Clark: Importance of flexibility in the Square; possibly look at San Antonio and their relationship with the Riverfront
  • Jane McWilliams: The Dam- what year was it built? (Ross mentioned that the current dam is the 3rd dam); So what do the historians vs. the environmentalists think about the dam?

Input and Response sheets

Lastly, attendees were invited to fill out an ‘input and response’ sheet:

Bridge Square Oct 23 open house input and response sheetsUse this quick response sheet for your thoughts about the Open House presentation materials and about Bridge Square’s historic and continuing role for the community.

You may give your name if you wish, but that is optional.

We’ve scanned 22 of the sheets into a single PDF document.

Next week, we’ll have an online version available here for everyone: an online straw poll.

Blog discussion/comments

online discussion clip art

If you were at the meeting and have comments, questions or feedback that you’d like to add, attach a comment below.

And feel free to react to the comments of others, either those comments:

  • made at the meeting
  • captured on the response sheets
  • made here in the blog discussion thread

7 thoughts on “Oct. 23 Bridge Square open house: documents, comments, feedback

  1. From my perspective, I thought last night’s open house/workshop was just right, as Goldilocks was wont to say.

    The mix of information and background provided by John Slack, Marcia Klopf, with comments from Dan Bergeson & Steve Edwins which got the discussions started were great.

    Notes I took include:
    -”Northfield should be paved with something more durable than good intentions”
    –How to engage the river in all of this
    –grass vs planters…providing vegative interrupts and seating
    –Pedestrian mall
    –”All roads lead to the Square”
    GET SOME TRAFFIC COUNTS!! (note to self)
    –Multiuse…seating vs no seating, power on vs power off
    And lastly…”The post office–THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.”

    I also learned I have a fellow traveler in my dislike of acronyms, but that is an entirely different story

    Thanks to all for taking time out of their evening to attend

  2. During the after-presentation discussion time, I asked those at my table – “What’s the budget?” The response was, “Oh, there is no budget until there is a plan. Then we have to raise the money.”

    If this is true, it sounds backwards to me. If, as John said, we should think about this project’s footprint space as curb-to-curb north to south and from Division Street to the River. That opens up the design process to possible projects costing millions of dollars (tearing out the existing park and infrastructure and starting over). This isn’t going to happen.

    After the City’s extremely modest attempt at grass-planting this summer (which Judy Code saved, on her hands and knees), I wonder what it would cost to have a local, professional landscaper remove all the existing grass and old soil and replace it with new soil and sod and a watering system. Maybe that’s all that’s necessary. Worth getting an estimate, I should think.

  3. Bart, it is true, there’s no budget that’s part of this planning process to make any changes to Bridge Square.

    At the end of the process, it’s quite possible that the general consensus of the community is that Bridge Square works pretty well the way it is so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Or maybe there’s broad support for just fixing the grass problem but not much more.

    But it’s also possible that the process generates considerable support for something transformative and that there’s a way to do it in phases over several years. It seems to me that the Streetscape Task Force wants the community to examine that possibility first. The realities of what we citizens are willing to spend to achieve it can come later.

    Is that a flawed process?

  4. It is true that a reasonable question is : why are we doing this now if there is no designated funding for changes?

    However, my POV is that B’SQ IS the ‘heart’ of the community, and it is important for it to be the best functioning heart it can be…

    I’d initially vote for: 1. keeping the grass at any maintenance cost; that island of cool green is a necessity in the mostly red brick DT.
    2. Keeping any design as simple as possible because of the wide divergence of uses, i.e. let it adapt to each user’s needs.

    and 3. The City MUST, in my POV, obtain the Post Office. With the well established Cannon valley Elder Collegium, we are already well along the way to having a new Athenaeum,right there in that fabulous building on the Square. Lifelong learning is a strong and relevant component of NF’s life, and if the City were to take control of the building, and engage with the Elder Collegium to develop it as a public discussion/meeting and classroom learning space, I cannot imagine that it would not be a huge success…

    Think of this: besides the CVEC curriculum having a home classroom base, what if during the weekends, there were public discussions of current interest? Would not a tourist/visitor in the Square, seeing a sign that said “Public Discussion Tonight : Should the US Intervene in Syria?”
    Might that person not say,”Wow! Let’s get something to eat and stay around for that”

    I think that our Post Office, so prominent on the Square, must remain a part of NF’s public life, and not as a Pizza Hut (the fate of so many other small public buildings and Carnegie Libraries).

  5. Hey Kiffi, thanks for chiming in.

    At last week’s open house, I overheard former Northfield City Councilor Jim Pokorney chatting about something similar to your “Public Discussion Tonight” idea, only it wasn’t tied to the Post Office building. He indicated that he was going to write something up about it. I’ll bug him.

    As for the Post Office building, like Joe Stapf reiterated in his comment above, we’re hearing from people that it’s “the elephant in the room.”

    What’s your reaction to consultant Bill Johnson’s assessment of the Post Office Building in the Northfield Roundtable’s workshop summary on Bridge Square?

    “The centrality of the post office building affects the entire block. Reuse would be best if used as a place for all; the broader the better. Bill highlighted four aspects to the post office building that emphasize its importance: 1) strategic location, 2) unusual quality, 3) deep community roots, and 4) a “catalyst supreme” for assuring a vibrant center city.”

    • I totally agree with Bill Johnson’s assessment of the importance of the Post Office; in my POV, the City must obtain the building … that’s a Number One priority.

      Unfortunately, the City Council ‘passed off the ball’ on this to a committee, and it needs strong LGU action, not a (however well-intentioned) committee.

      The oldest building in the DT is the Athenaeum building (mid block, just east of the square, on 4th) and I just can’t get the idea of the New Athenaeum out of my head.

      To me, it is inconceivable that the City would lose control of that building and site.