As Main Street Communities grow in their revitalization efforts, it’s important to make steps toward deep and lasting transformation in a district, going beyond the activity that takes place early on. While shopping events, community celebrations, and general promotion is crucial to downtown success, it’s also important to take on more in-depth project that directly speak to the needs of their district. Red Wing Downtown Main Street (RWDTMS) is stepping into the next phase of their program life, and has a great tradition of using the “Challenge” to spur activity in their district.
Their first effort was the Restaurant Challenge, which took place in 2015, and focused on activating vacant spaces to spur dining options in downtown Red Wing. In collaboration with the City, Port Authority, and Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) the Restaurant Challenge led interested entrepreneurs through a multi-week course, building business plans, meeting with experts, and learning about what it takes to open a business. This course culminated in a business pitch, with the “winner” being awarded a package of reduced rent for six months, $20,000 from the HRA for hard assets, in-kind marketing, accounting, advertising and other business expense package with a $40,000 value, and kitchen equipment valued at $40,000 which was purchased by RWDTMS through a grant from the HRA. Once the restaurant remained open for five years, they owned the kitchen equipment outright. Staghead, located at 219 Bush Street, was the winner of the Restaurant Challenge, and it’s become a hot spot for locals and visitors alike. While this challenge was great for the winning businesses, it also fostered additional growth in downtown. A food truck also opened as a result of this challenge.
Following the Restaurant Challenge’s success, Red Wing DTMS launched the Retail Challenge in 2016. This challenge had a similar concept as the Restaurant Challenge. This challenge also fostered growth for more than one space in downtown, and two additional stores and one pop-up shop opened following the Challenge.
Once again, Red Wing is using the Challenge concept to foster downtown revitalization, but this time they’re trying a new tactic—working with buildings and developers to redevelop historic sites. By collaborating with partners at the City of Red Wing, Red Wing Housing & Redevelopment Authority, Red Wing Port Authority, Goodhue County, and the Jones Family Foundation, Red Wing Downtown Main Street is creating a program that developers and building owners can use to match funding and spur economic and housing growth in the historic downtown area. In addition to previous funding from public sources, this challenge is also incorporating funding from local foundations, creating a true public/private collaboration for revitalization.
Taken from the Revitalization Challenge application:
“Community partners are offering an incentive package worth up to $335,000 for 1 (one) redevelopment project that will be completed by December 2023 (or 18 months after the project is awarded) and located within the downtown Red Wing historic district of downtown.
The Red Wing Redevelopment Challenge utilizes existing funding sources dedicated to downtown revitalization in combination with local foundation funding to provide this financial assistance program. This pilot program will enable the community of Red Wing to market a suite of redevelopment financial assistance tools together, demonstrating the integration of multiple redevelopment resources and supporting vertical infrastructure projects that contribute to the continued development of downtown Red Wing.”
“The key to our success is collaboration,” shared RWDTMS Executive Director Megan Tsui. “We [at RWDTMS] bring very few physical resources to the table, but what we’re good at is bringing organizations and people together that have those resources. The role of RWDTMS in Red Wing is to collaborate. We build partnerships that can make a difference and work towards a collective goal. I recognize that we at Main Street can’t wait to be invited to the table. We create the table and fill gaps.”
Red Wing is certainly seeing the continued impact of these challenges, which would not have happened without the leadership of the Main Street program. We look forward to seeing the results of the Redevelopment Challenge, and the future growth of Red Wing Downtown Main Street!
Photos: Pam Dusbabek