From Dawn Kopp
Executive Director, Downtown Business Association
New York City has Central Park, Boston has Quincy Market, and even closer to home Rapid City, SD has Main Street Square. Community spaces in Downtowns or along historic waterfronts give the community a central gathering space, a beautiful haven to engage with their fellow community members, a destination and sense of place, while adding value to our city by strengthening its authentic identity.
Bismarck however, has no such space in the Downtown. Many of the recent transplants to Bismarck or those that have left to experience other places and returned, have lamented about Downtown Bismarck’s lack of a Public Plaza.
The Downtowners newsletter outlined some of the Downtown goals and objectives the City of Bismarck has identified with their recently adopted Strategic Plan (see goals and objectives at the right).
One of the most pressing was to create a Public Plaza in Downtown Bismarck. Goal 4 under Community Character: “Implement a public plaza or public open space along the north side of Broadway Avenue between 5th Street and 6th Street.”
It may seem like a Downtown Plaza could just be a superficial amenity, but it really is the meat of continued growth Downtown. A plaza is an essential part of creating a small urban center which attracts young professionals to the community, retains young families, attracts the “creative class” of professionals, increases Downtown residential opportunities for all ages, inspires new events, lures new businesses, and adds an authenticity to make Downtown Bismarck a destination for those within and outside of our community.
In essence, a plaza is a value capturing investment for our city. Rapid City’s Main Street Square has created a 30% increase in walking retail traffic sales, they have 162 event days scheduled for the square for the first year, and are spurring on new investments in their Downtown.
Bismarck is in a unique position to continue to capitalize on being the hub of oil activity, commercial activity, central gathering point for conventions, etc.
A plaza, vibrant Downtown, and pedestrian neighborhood are all tools a community can use to entice people not only to come here, but to settle here, invest here and participate in the community.
Anyone interested in working or would like to volunteer their time to help develop a Downtown Plaza in Bismarck, please contact the Downtown Business Association.
Economic Vitality Goals (approved by Bismarck City Commission)
Goal 1. Enhance revitalization efforts for the downtown area.
- Update downtown master plan.
- Explore funding opportunities and work with developers and partners to explore open space.
- Lead and explore marketing the Renaissance Zone and core program.
Goal 3. Become a destination place.
- Establish a public civic square in the downtown area.
- Create a first class full service convention center.
- Work with community partners to develop and implement a plan for jointly promoting special events and attractions regionally and nationally.
Community Character Goals (by Bismarck City Commission)
Goal 1. Arts and Culture: To be the arts and cultural hub of North Dakota.
- Create an entertainment and arts district.
- Strengthen relationship with United Tribes Technical College.
- Develop city-wide public arts policy.
Goal 4. Downtown: To have a vibrant, lively and attractive destination as the heart of the community.
- Increase market-rate housing quantities and availability
- Implementation of a Quiet Rail Zone
- Relieve parking problems along the Rosser Avenue corridor between3rd Streetand7th Street with the development of a parking structure.
- Implement a public plaza or public open space along the north side of Broadway Avenue between 5th Street and 6th Street.
- Update the Downtown Master Plan.
- Help facilitate and support collaborative efforts to develop an arts and cultural center.
- Multimodal transportation opportunities and facilities.