Crookston plans town square to unify downtown
CROOKSTON -- The former site of Crookston Central has been ticketed to become Activity Central. Taking a page out of the playbook of Grand Forks and other cities, local leaders have identified the block-long green space as its town square. The ci...
CROOKSTON -- The former site of Crookston Central has been ticketed to become Activity Central.
Taking a page out of the playbook of Grand Forks and other cities, local leaders have identified the block-long green space as its town square. The city has signed a 10-year agreement to lease the property, with the aim of attracting activities and traffic to its downtown business district, just as Town Square has done to revive Grand Forks' downtown.
"We'd like to use it year round as the focal point for downtown," said Shannon Stassen, president of the Crookston Area Chamber of Commerce. "It's another attraction to make people want to drive through downtown."
As the name of the former school for Grades 7 to 12 suggests, the location is in the middle of town. It's one block from the downtown business district.
For starters, the local Farmer's Market has been moved there. It also will be the hub for Oxcart Days, the city's annual August celebration. Plans call for concerts, stage shows, plays, wine-tasting, flea markets, art shows and food sales, the staples of downtown squares.
"As far as having events, we're going full bore the first year," said Shannon Stassen. "As far as putting up structures and equipment, we'll probably wait until next year so we can study what's best long term for a multi-use facility.
"We have a ton of room to do what we want to do."
Crookston Central was built in 1914 and closed in 1997, with a new high school built on the city's north end. A year later, the 1914 portion was demolished. That left the 1956 addition that included a gym, shop, music rooms, library and cafeteria.
The remaining structure served as a school for Grades 7 to 8 for four years before it was closed. The building received new life in 2008, however, when it was remodeled into the 11-unit Central Square apartments by developer Resource Management of Grand Forks.
The apartments continue to be popular, according to Nichole Syverson of Resource Management. She said the business has contemplated adding more apartments and building a day care center, but chose not to pursue the additions.
The site's only other building is the school district-owned Adult Learning Center, which leases its space from Resource Management.
"I'm excited to see what they can put together to make the town better," Syverson said.
The idea gets a thumbs-up from Barry Wilfahrt, the president of the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce who also led Crookston's Chamber for two years in the 1980s.
"Our Town Square creates activity and a vibrant downtown that people want to come to," he said. "It's been a real positive for our downtown. I'm hopeful that downtown East Grand Forks takes a good look at what they could do, too, between the river and restaurant row.
"Town squares are very successful at bringing foot traffic to downtowns."
Perhaps some of that Grand Forks traffic might be rerouted, too.
"A lot of folks from Grand Forks going to lake country take the bypass around Crookston," Stassen said. "Besides our beautiful downtown and its unique shopping experiences, we want to give those people another reason to drive through our downtown."
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send email to email@example.com .