Construction of a pavilion, a “musical playground,” and walking and biking trails at a re-imagined Levee Park will mark the start of a new life for Hastings’ downtown and riverfront.
That is what officials would like to see, at least.
The city’s Economic Development and Redevelopment Authority hired Bolton & Menk, a Mankato-based engineering firm, to develop plans for an estimated $4 million worth of improvements to the riverside park and surrounding streets and alleys.
It’s part of an ambitious revitalization project called “Beginning a Riverfront Renaissance.” The second of two public hearings on the plan is scheduled for Monday’s City Council meeting.
“That park component is open green space that abuts our downtown area, and the idea behind it is to try to revitalize some of that space and to invite members of the community and visitors to that space,” Parks and Recreation Director Chris Jenkins said last week.
One goal, he added: “Visitors down there would then spill off into the downtown district and help support businesses there.”
The local Rotary Club is raising money to build an amphitheater-style pavilion with seating area, adjacent to an existing veterans memorial, he said.
Once the plan is better defined, Jenkins said, city finance officials will decide how to fund the rest of the improvements to the 3-acre park.
That includes construction of a labyrinth and skating rink, a section that would have outdoor musical equipment, landscaping and lighting. Expansion and realignment of bike and pedestrian trails also are planned.
“The park has been stagnant for a number of years,” Jenkins said.
In addition, several nearby roads and alleys will be resurfaced.
Among the new projects being counted on to revitalize both the riverfront and downtown are the construction of a new playground near the historic train depot and the planned refurbishment of the former H.D. Hudson Manufacturing Co. building.
Those plans are expected to be firmed up with the release of a feasibility study this fall.
Pam Holzem, a real estate agent and longtime economic authority member, said she is enthused about the proposed development.
“It’s just a win-win,” said Holzem, who owns two downtown businesses and two buildings. “For the many years that I’ve sat on the commission, we’ve constantly been revitalizing the downtown area with parking lots and areas for the public and now we’re actually seeing those areas are going to be developed into something very nice and inviting.”