Vision 2020: Progress for tomorrow

Published 1:56 pm Friday, April 5, 2013

—This feature originally appeared in Progress 2013. Get a copy at the Austin Daily Herald office, 310 Second St. NE.

Austin’s Vision 2020 organizers will have a busy 2013 schedule, as this year is arguably the first year residents will see big changes from the community improvement project. Here’s the latest rundown on each of the Top 10 Idea Committees’ progress.

1.) Embrace and Maintain Our Waterways

—City workers have cleared trees near Turtle Creek off of 12th Street SW.

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—Committee members split into subcommittees to work on improving water quality, enhancing local waterways, educating residents on water conservation, and promoting recreational activities.

—The group hosted a first annual “Plunging for Pink” polar plunge in January as part of Paint the Town Pink, to raise money for The Hormel Institute.

—There are two planned enhancement projects for the Cedar River: one near the Old Mill Restaurant to denote where the first mill in the area stood, and one by the Fourth Avenue Northeast bridge.

—The city and committee plan to install another aerator in Mill Pond to combat algae, pending flood mitigation work.

—The education subcommittee is looking for volunteers to help shape education campaigns for residents.

2.) Gateway to Austin Attraction

—Committee members met with and received preliminary approval to build an “iconic overpass” for walking and biking over Interstate 90.

—The committee will work with city officials to secure Minnesota Department of Transportation funding for a landscaping project along the I-90 Corridor this summer. MnDOT would reimburse the city for building materials and look at the design, but the committee must provide volunteers for the effort.

3.) Community Wide Technology

—The committee hopes to create a high-capacity Internet fiber infrastructure throughout Austin, where the fiber cable would be publicly owned through Austin Utilities, but Internet service would still go through private companies.

—Members will work with Bill Coleman, a broadband consultant paid through a Blandin Foundation grant, to plan the next steps and find state funding.

4.) Expanding Bike/Walk Trail System

—The committee is pursuing a MnDOT grant through the “Safe Routes to Schools” program to gather information to improve dangerous intersections for students walking or biking to school, which will also improve several bike trails throughout the city.

—Members will work with the Shooting Star Trail group to connect the regional bike trail through Mower County.

5.) Downtown Austin Destination Point

—The committee hopes to improve the plaza area off North Main Street, which could include building a stage for outdoor performers.

—An inventory of downtown businesses will be taken, as the committee wants to have no vacancies in the downtown business district.

—Members want to increase downtown events this year.

—Members want to preserve vacant fire property lot for prospective buyers.

6.) Education Leaders

—Committee members are preparing a community assessment toward a collective approach to education, similar to the Strive collective group in Cincinnati where a group of public and private partners improved public education offerings.

7.) Community Pride and Spirit

—The committee launched the Spread the Spirit campaign in January, asking residents to perform random acts of kindness and setting up a website to report such acts throughout town.

—Members are planning a small-scale fix-up project for the neighborhood north of Queen of Angels Catholic Church.

—There could be a Peer Power Partners group at I.J. Holton Intermediate School, where students with physical or mental disabilities would partner with general education peers throughout the school year.

8.) Revitalization of Austin Utilities Building

—The committee is pursuing a historical site designation from the state historical society.

—Members still plan to create more residential space inside the vacant building, though a public or retail space is still in the works.

9.) Business-Friendly Environment

—The committee hopes to organize events to encourage and help local entrepreneurs.

—Members want to create a personalized job connection for families who move here for a job and bring a “trailing spouse” looking for work.

10.) Community Recreation Center

—The committee is securing funding for a feasibility study by Anderson, Niehbur & Associates over a five-month period. The study will cost $53,000 and the city of Austin has donated $5,000 to the effort. Researchers hope to find how a new recreation center can help even more members of the community, such as minority families and older residents.