WORTHINGTON - A recently undertaken initiative is asking Worthington residents to weigh in on the future function and appearance of the city.
Members of the Design Worthington team have been soliciting opinions regarding city design, layout, infrastructure, architecture and other city attributes at a number of events throughout the spring and summer. The team will again be seeking opinions and sharing preliminary results from input gathered from former events on Saturday during King Turkey Day.
“KTD is focused on getting the message out about what’s going on in Worthington, so people can understand there is time and resources being spent to figure out how to put these standards into place to beautify Worthington over time and make it friendly to visitors and residents alike,” said Kathleen Nichols, Design Worthington administrative coordinator.
The movement that asks residents to become involved in the city’s future began in the spring, but a collaborative effort to establish design guidelines for commercial development began two years ago. In September, 2015, the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership began the partnership art program after receiving up to a $3 million award from ArtPlace America’s Community Development Investments program.
The housing partnership that services a 20-area region across southwest Minnesota chose Worthington, St. James and Milan for distribution of funds, with the goal of integrating arts and cultural strategies in the communities’ comprehensive planning and development processes.
“How can we bring arts and culture to bring diverse populations together?” asked Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership Resource Development Officer Chelsea Alger about the goal of the comprehensive project.
Alger and Nichols said the Worthington community has been very responsive to the movement. Nichols said a consensus of those completing a survey is proud of Worthington’s cultural diversity.
“So they wanted to see that highlighted more - whether that be city pride banners or memorabilia throughout the community that would really highlight Worthington pride,” she said.
Residents also like the historic feel of the downtown, with Nichols noting feedback of “more time and energy could be spent on the downtown, and even incorporating some of those historical features in the Oxford commercial area.”
One area of concern residents identified was Oxford Street - especially when it comes to pedestrian and biker safety, said Brady Haugen, Design Worthington project manager.
While input is being sought for the city as a whole, extra emphasis was already being placed on Oxford Street, Haugen added.
“Oxford is very spread out, but then it’s still very condensed with traffic,” he said. “The plan is to start making a better layout for Oxford and businesses and parking lots and anything future that could happen.”
The Design Worthington team will create a visual representation of this feedback and more gathered during the last six-month period. That visual representation will aid the city planning commission and the Cunningham Group - an architect and services planning company contracted by the city - when establishing design guidelines for future Worthington developments.
“When it would be time … to adopt those standards, hopefully the planning commission and council is supportive of the work that has been done and can move forward with those guidelines,” Alger said.
Nichols said implementing design standards would help the groups move toward a common goal of creating long-term residency, long-term businesses, increased revenue and continued growth - “ to build the community up into a place that people are happy and proud to live in,” she added.
Also assisting Nichols and Haugen as part of the Design Worthington team includes Gail Holinka, Pamela Traphagen Lowry, Jackie Olson and Agnes ‘Bobbi’ Alsgaard Lien.
While the Design Worthington team has concluded seeking input at local events, residents are still encouraged to take the survey online at www.designworthington.com or share ideas on its Facebook Page.