Hello, I’m Ross Currier, Executive Director of the Northfield Downtown Development Corp. (NDDC). I’ve served with the NDDC for the past eight years. Prior to working at the NDDC, I was part owner of a restaurant, a financial manager at a property management firm, an asset manager at a bank, and a real estate developer for both a non-profit firm and a for-profit firm.
The NDDC is based on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program. The Program has four points: Organizing, Promoting, Designing, and Economic Restructuring. Essentially, we bring people together to enhance the image, character, and economy of the downtown district. A key aspect of our work is finding and implementing stakeholder-driven ideas and initiatives.
Assuring that people can get to downtown is a key to the district’s vitality. Some come in a motorized vehicle, some come on a bicycle, and some come on foot. Assuring that there is a place for their car, bike, or backside in downtown is also important. I’ve been teased for my alleged “obsession” with bike racks, questioned about the need for benches, and, let’s say, “challenged” for my calls for more public parking. I am undaunted.
In recent years, the City of Northfield has added a number of bike racks and benches. In fact, they even installed two way cool bike repair stations. In 2012, the City Council voted to expand public parking in the downtown. Much to my personal happiness, the site they selected, Washington Street near 3rd Street, can also help to protect and strengthen the Northfield Public Library.
However, the new additions to the downtown public parking supply will barely begin to address the backlog of demand for parking. Furthermore, as then-Councilors Betsey Buckheit and Erica Zweifel said to me, we can’t just keep building more parking lots year after year.
I’ll be the first to admit it, the “stars” of downtown are the retailers, restaurants, and service providers that fill our buildings and that parking, along with benches and bike racks, are really more of a support function. It’s important to save space for the stars.
We need to come up with some ideas to help Northfield continue to assure that people can get to and stay in downtown through a variety of transportation options. If the community continues to expand by the average of 250 people per year of the past decade, the challenge will only increase…and that’s only the people who live here. There are also the people who want to work and/or play here…and they need “parking” for their cars, bikes, and backsides too.
We need your ideas and initiatives to help assure that people can get to and stay in downtown. We’re talking a little longer term planning, say ten or twenty years, and a lot of community visioning. At City Administrator Tim Madigan’s suggestion, we’re calling it “The Conversation”.
We, the NDDC, along with our partners from the City of Northfield, are currently thinking stakeholders, outreach, media, and meetings. But, don’t wait for us, if you give us too much time we might develop a PowerPoint presentation. So, just join “The Conversation” and share your thoughts with us and the rest of the community.