The sign at the entrance of Spring Valley’s downtown was redesigned as part of Main Street Revitalization project.  DAVE PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
The sign at the entrance of Spring Valley’s downtown was redesigned as part of Main Street Revitalization project. DAVE PHILLIPS/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Spring Valley business owners met last week for the final downtown design meeting.

These meetings, which began earlier this year, have brought local business owners and consultants from The Urban Studio together to work toward a more vibrant downtown area.

The Urban Studio is a Rochester-based company founded by Teresa McCormack, who strives to offer planning and design to communities, businesses and organizations throughout southeast Minnesota. The company has been able to connect owners with a design team, a historian, building materials specialist and labor cost specialist to assist in their projects.

Together with business owners they are aiming to create a downtown that is more vibrant, cleaner and more cohesive. Throughout the meetings it has also become clear it is important to keep the historic ambience of the buildings.

Spring Valley economic development director Cathy Enerson was able to secure several funding sources available to local businesses to use for their projects. These include the Small Cities Block Grant, the Revolving Loan Fund and the Greater Minnesota Housing Revolving Loan Fund.

McCormack and Tom Erickson, also of The Urban Studio, began the final meeting by unveiling the final design plan, which included examples using the Sheldon's Plumbing and Heating building and Baulder, Maus, Forman, Kritzer and Wagner law firm.

The design examples showed how the buildings could be updated to preserve the historical look, but help engage potential customers, as well. For Sheldon's it was showing possible awning and window options, while they presented ideas for the law firm's window display area.

The group discussed ways to engage potential customers. Enerson spoke of examples she discovered while taking a walk through downtown. These include the sandwich boards used by The Salsa Guy and Ladd K9, music flowing through and outside Vintage Artifacts and the flower displays outside of many of the businesses.

Daryl Boettcher, owner of The Salsa Guy, spoke about the success he and Chateau de Chic owner Jenn Slifka shared during Chateau's Girls Night Out event. The duo used the space in front of the salon to create a festive spot for customers and passers-by alike to join in on the fun.

"It's fun, it's worth it, and it's just very easy to control and set up," Boettcher told the group.

He continued saying he has found that combining efforts for these events has helped him introduce his product to people who would not normally venture down the street to his shop.

The meeting then moved on to address confusion relating to the Davis-Bacon Wage Act. The act requires contractors and subcontractors working on federally funded contracts in excess of $2,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair (including painting and decorating) of public buildings or public works to pay their labors no less than the local prevailing wage for their particular trade.

Most of the confusion lay in the discrepancy in what is considered commercial and what is residential/rental, as the act only pertains to commercial projects. Most of the downtown buildings have commercial space on the main floor with space for rentals on the upper floors.

Community and economic development consultant Michelle Vrieze determined she might be able to split most of the exterior project so 50 percent is commercial and 50 percent would go toward residential.

For those looking for assistance with funding or project questions, Vrieze announced that she would now be available every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Spring Valley City Hall.

The meeting ended with the introduction of Denise Erichsen who, along with her niece, Jenny Gruenwald, is opening a new retreat called Glad Gatherings. Erichsen told the group that they are currently working to fix plumbing issues, the roof and doing some interior decorating. The retreat is hoping to begin accepting guests in November.

Overall, Enerson called the progress over the last year a good start and encouraged all owners to keep working towards their goals and use all the tools offered by the city and EDA.

Though this was the final downtown design meeting, the group will be meeting once again in the beginning of 2014 to start discussions on the final step of the Main Street revitalization, which is the marketing of the downtown.