Old Town Plan
PURPOSE OF PROJECT
The birthplace of the Mesabi Range and incorporated as a city in 1890, the original townsite of Mountain Iron, “Old Town Mountain Iron”, is in the last stages of a transition period that has lasted for roughly 30 years. The transition began with the relocation of Highway 169 which removed vital traffic flow from the downtown and opened up new land for private development away from the heart of old Mountain Iron. Soon thereafter, the city merged with Nichols Township which, among other things, created greater demands and options for locating public institutions within the much larger community. Added to these factors were such regional and state-wide forces as increased mobility, more readily available land elsewhere in the city, a dramatic restructuring of the mining industry, and a shift of commercial activity to fewer and larger regional centers. The result was Old Town’s transformation from the hub of a vibrant city to a quiet neighborhood within a larger and still vibrant community.
The Goal of this Project is to identify a plan of action, focused on key public sector endeavors, that retain and enhance Old Town,s attractiveness as a quality neighborhood within Mountain Iron.
The Consultant Team evaluated a number of factors deemed important to understanding the potential for the Old Town neighborhood. The following narrative summarizes the findings of this evaluation.
City’s Development Pattern
Situation: Over the past three decades the expanded Mountain Iron has evolved a land use pattern that, among other things, has resulted in a reduced vitality for the Old Town neighborhood. New residential development has been suburban or rural in style and key community functions (e.g., City Hall, church, retail) have left Old Town to establish in more centrally located and more readily accessible locations along TH 169.
Assessment: The community’s current land use pattern will persist and strengthen over time. There is nothing to suggest that former retail and community functions
Situation: Mountain Iron’s population declined from 3,362 in 1990 to 2,999 in 2000; this is a 11% decrease. Every community in the immediate area, except Buhl, also declined during this period. The percent of children under age 20 decreased from 30.3% of the population to 25.9% while the number of people aged 65 or more increased from 13.9% to 15.5%.
Assessment: There is nothing to suggest that the recent population trend will be reversed although the community?s attractive rural and suburban lots may allow the population to stabilize over the next 10 years.
Situation: Minntac dominates Mountain Iron,s economy and, especially in the Old Town area, it dominates the landscape as well. The mine employs roughly 1,600 workers and supports a variety of enterprises that serve it and other mining operations. The flow of workers through the main gates near Old Town represent a sizeable potential market for certain retail ventures such as restaurants and convenience stores.
Assessment: Although it has downsized along with other taconite operators in order to remain competitive in a global economy, there are no indications that the enterprise will shutdown in the foreseeable future. The mine will remain active along its southern wall, meaning there will be continued effects from blasting and a continuing need for “buffer zones” in this area. USX states that it has no interest in acquiring and relocating the Old Town neighborhood. Efforts to capture the flow of traffic to and from Minntac should be focused in the heart of Old Town and not in the Highway 53 or County Road 102 corridors.
Situation: All Iron Range schools are facing significant declines in enrollment. Nearly every district has serious financial situations requiring innovative solutions. The Mountain Iron-Buhl system is no different. An excess levy referendum was just passed to maintain district financial solvency. $3 million has recently been spent to modernize and upgrade the grade 7-12 facility in the Old Town neighborhood.
Assessment: With the passage of the excess levy, it can be assumed that the school will remain in Old Town for the foreseeable future.
Situation: The historic City library in Old Town requires an estimated $600,000 to bring it into compliance with regulations on accessibility and to undertake needed maintenance and reconditioning actions. The community is divided on whether to make this investment, build a new library connected to the new community center, or to cease all city library functions.
Assessment: The consultants concur with assessment of the building’s condition and the estimate to upgrade it for continued public use. As demonstrated by the conversion of the former City Hall into professional offices, the library presents a potentially attractive site for private redevelopment for such uses as professional offices, retail/restaurant, or residential.
Retail Commercial / Service
Situation: A variety of forces have caused Old Town to lose the attributes that made it Mountain Iron’s downtown. The handful of retail businesses still remaining are carry-overs from that earlier era and their continued existence is problematic. The lone exception is Spring Creek Outfitters; it is a combination manufacturer, retail outlet, and catalog/on-line retailer. Spring Creek is located in Old Town for reasons that are specific to the company (e.g., owners live in area, historic ties to community, availability of buildings, product line that does not require drive-by sales) but are not unique.
Assessment: The future of retail business in Old Town is limited to three basic types: (1) convenience operations that cater to and are supported by neighborhood residents, Minntac workers, and visitors (e.g., people using the Mesabi Trail); (2) businesses, such as Spring Creek, that have personal reasons for locating in Old Town; and (3) businesses whose special character (e.g., restaurant) could draw customers to an otherwise out-of-the-way area or those (ex: professional offices) for whom location or drive-by traffic are not major business factors.
Situation: Not counting Minntac, there is some industrial activity in Old Town mainly tied to the mining industry. There is not much room for expansion; the Old Town Industrial Park, which is owned by USX and jointly marketed through the City, is not considered prime land even within the community. Periodic blasting by the mine effectively eliminates consideration of attracting vibration-sensitive enterprises.
Assessment: While existing activities may expand and should be encouraged to do so, the neighborhood does not appear to be an attractive industrial site.
Situation: Old Town possesses two renowned overlooks, Mountain Iron Pit and Wacootah, but both are in less-than top grade condition. The Minntac mine tours bring a small number of people to town throughout the summer. The Mesabi Trail, whose western link from Mountain Iron towards Kinney will be built next year, has the potential to foster at least a modest tourism market for Old Town; Old Town is near the central point on the 55-mile segment between Nashwauk and Gilbert. Old Town itself possesses a certain “small town” character and scope of development that is potentially pleasing to visitors and could be the basis for modest tourism development.
Assessment: Tourism can provide a market that helps support community-oriented recreational features (e.g., additional trails) and is part of the customer base for new retail businesses (e.g., convenience store, eatery).
Situation: Among the key findings of a recent analysis of the Quad City area’s housing market were: the market area is anticipated to lose additional households in the upcoming years; the areas with recent residential growth offered lake shore or quality rural sites (e.g., Mtn Iron); the con version of seasonal to year-round housing may absorb much of area’s new housing demand; and one market with anticipated increase in demand is for senior citizens.
The consultants understand that housing within Old Town is generally priced $10-20,000 less than comparable housing elsewhere in the area; sales of homes in Old Town are strong and units are not on the market long.
The Mountain Manor senior citizen housing unit is chronically under-occupied for reasons that are unclear but may be related to the absence of easily accessible services and stores. Finally, the consultants who prepared the Virginia housing analysis stated that “the market for new housing development will generally not occur without proactive community involvement.”
Assessment: Existing housing in Old Town represents an opportunity for first time homebuyers to acquire and upgrade affordable housing. The reason for Mountain Manor’s high vacancy rate is unclear, but one response could be to allow non-senior citizens to rent there. Success of residential development along mine pit lakes in Virginia and elsewhere suggests the potential for development around certain pits, Iroquois, Wacootah, to tap into the still-strong market for housing in high amenity settings.
Amenities / Natural Resources
Situation: Old Town’s mining past and present have produced a landscape that is a valuable amenity. The present, in the form of Minntac, is a massively impressive example of how humans can alter the landscape and it provides views of modern industry operating at the largest of scales. The past, in the form of water filled old mines, offers an attractive backdrop for recreational activity and residential development. To date several overlooks of mining landmarks and activity have been developed as has a rough access/beach at the Mott Pit.
Assessment: The community has not taken full advantage of the natural and built resources present in the Old Town area. The success of future development will hinge on how effectively the community utilizes them.
Situation: Like most Iron Range communities, the Old Town area of Mountain Iron is constrained by land ownership patterns. USX seals off the area to the north and west, owns land to the south (although it probably would sell this land), and is acquiring land to the east. USX owns land around the Mountain Iron pit lake including the site of the overlook. The State is a major landowner owning blocks of land just south of CR 102 as it heads east to Parkville. The City owns a sizeable amount of land, including land on the Iroquois and Wacootah mine pit lakes.
Assessment: The large amount of City-owned land is a valuable asset that could be used to foster new development associated with Old Town.
OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
As a means to explore possible approaches to the future of Old Town, the Consultant Team prepared four scenarios based on these assumptions:
The primary factor determining the neighborhood’s future is the level of involvement by the City of Mountain Iron to consciously influence development and redevelopment within the neighborhood. This involvement can take a variety of forms, including:
- Expenditures for routine maintenance of public infrastructure.
- Investment in public capital improvements, buildings, streets, utilities, parks, etc.
- Staff time to seek non-city resources to support neighborhood.
- Staff time and related expenditures to market economic development opportunities and community activities.
Economic development will respond to general market forces or to the unpredictable whim of individual investors/entrepreneurs. Public actions can only hope to enhance or create favorable market conditions, they cannot cause the economic activity to occur or, once there, to remain.
The following portray the general correlation between the level of municipal involvement and the likely future outcome for the Old Town neighborhood. While not a fixed relationship, reason able inferences can be made about the anticipated outcomes based on level of municipal activity. This inferred relationship is the basis for the scenarios devised by the Consultant Team. It is important to note that the probable outcomes occur in ranges that overlap with one another.
Four Possible Scenarios
To illustrate the range of options for the community, the Consultant Team prepared four scenarios for Old Town. Again, while these scenarios are offered as “options”, they really represent rough points along the previously portrayed municipal involvement/investment ramp and the associated probable outcomes.
…characterized by a municipal policy of no significant capital investment in the Old Town neighborhood.
Normal municipal maintenance of infrastructure.
Response to Private Actions:
Neighborhood may decline, will do no better than stabilize.
… characterized by a municipal policy of commitment to ongoing viability of the neighborhood.
Make long-term commitment of capital investment to maintain public infrastructure.
Encourage mixed use development in downtown area.
Support retention of school in neighborhood.
Market Mountain Manor to wider range of tenants.
Response to Private Actions: Reactive but selective to those that sustain and/or enhance neighborhood.
Predictable Outcome: Neighborhood will likely stabilize with potential to decline or grow.
…characterized by a municipal policy of investment directed to enhance neighborhood for residents and visitors.
Public Actions: All those in Scenario 2 + the following:
Develop mix of recreational facilities to serve residents and attract visitors:
Develop Mountain Iron pit overlook as a significant historical site on Iron Range with vastly upgraded site.
Upgrade Wacootah overlook and surrounding area.
Align Mesabi Trail for summer time link running through downtown area.
Develop trail system connecting mine pit lakes with neighborhood.
Enhance Mott Pit access into significant recreation facility.
Develop accesses to other pit lakes.
Seek non-City funding to assist with projects.
Response to Private Actions: Reactive but selective to those that sustain and/or enhance neighborhood, and, encouragement of neighborhood level convenience/service retail and new residential development including subdivisions.
Predictable Outcome: Neighborhood will at least stabilize with strong potential to grow.
… characterized by a municipal policy of multi-faceted investment to actively promote neighborhood growth.
Public Actions: All those in Scenarios 2 & 3 + the following:
Identify areas for new housing and actively work with developers to develop them (these are probably located along south rims of Iroquois and Wacootah mine pit lakes).
Insure strong physical connections new residential areas and Old Downtown to foster community interaction and support market for neighborhood level retail.
Streetscape improvements in heart of Old Downtown. There is not to be a “theme” ala Biwabik, but rather, the intrinsic character of individual buildings is to be restored and emphasized. Streetscape features such as lighting and furniture will serve to unify the area.
Actively market library building for desired redevelopment.
Response to Private Actions: Aggressive, proactive role in marketing Old Town for residential development, tourism-oriented retail and service, and neighborhood-oriented retail/service.
Predictable Outcome: Neighborhood will likely grow.
On October 9, 2001 a public forum was held for the purpose of allowing Mountain Iron residents to comment on the planning process and to offer insight s into a desired future for the Old Town neighborhood. On an evening which sported two competing events including a forum on an upcoming school referendum, twenty-two residents attended the session.
The meeting was in two parts: a background presentation by the Consultant Team of its work, and, review and comment from those in attendance. Divided into four groups, the citizens were asked to report some indication of the level of municipal services that they thought to be appropriate for the neighborhood for the future. In most cases the groups opted to react to the various discussion points made in the presentation.
A series of themes dominated the small groups; reports and the ensuing discussion period. These were:
Need grocery or convenience store.
Need outside money.
New residential along mine pits is good idea.
Mesabi Trail routing with winter/summer seasonal alignments is good.
Area needs to be “dressed up”; scenic overlooks, streets, etc.
Mining history is neighborhood’s ace for promotion to visitors.
Inventory of Comments
The following is a list of the major comments provided by the groups and individual participants:
Current condition would result in no significant changes to adjust to, continue to have an area of affordable housing, happy with current level of public services, but not likely result in the return of a store or address transportation and other needs.
Area near Vidmar should be marketed for industrial uses, road & track access.
City government has not been seeking grants.
A convenience store is badly needed.
History is what we offer; Minntac tours, origins of the industry here, use to attract tourists.
Viewpoints should be upgraded.
Library should be upgraded and kept, it is Carnegie, the Carnegie foundation will help.
Like the proposed trail alignments, seasonal change.
Mott Pit beach enhancement.
New residential at pits good, new people, new support for grocery, bank, etc. but would take money from City resources, need outside money.
Why doesn’t USX give us money; We need to save our town.
Six months from now, after referendum results are know, this study might be better.
Old Downtown definitely worth saving.
I have good sources that say school will stay regardless of referendum results.
I have good sources that say school will not stay unless referendum supports it.
Young people are attracted to affordable housing in the area.
Housing at pits is good, water levels not stable so docks not realistic.
Grocery store is key for future of Old Downtown.
Upgrade streets and sidewalks.
Need to work together to keep our town.
RECOMMENDED PLAN OF ACTION
Combining its assessment of the neighborhood with the input of the community, the Consultant Team proposes the following set of recommendations for the Old Town Mountain Iron area. In considering these recommendations, the community is reminded that the future of the neighborhood most directly depends upon the deliberate actions of the municipality in terms of the type and level of investments it makes into the area. These actions create the opportunities to which the private sector, be it potential homebuyers or business owners, will react. How the private sector reacts cannot be determined or dictated in advance.
Residential Building Block
Main Street Building Block
Recreation Building Block
New residential development situated along scenic mine pit lakes brings new people to the neighborhood while retaining viability of existing homes which sustains historic character and affordability. Historic sense of place is emphasized through restored buildings and focus on entry points and Mountain Iron pit overlook to create setting in which businesses can take advantage of markets created by new residents and visitors. Strong links to the regional Mesabi Trail, revamped overlooks that inform visitors about the community’s past, and upgraded access to mine pit lakes attract visitors while enhancing quality of life for residents.
Old Town’s future rests upon a bedrock foundation of a history that has created a special sense of place. As the “birthplace of the Mesabi Range”, Mountain Iron traces the exceptional changes in landscape and community that occurred since the Merritt brothers first found iron ore here. This history and the evolution of Iron Range communities is evident throughout Old Town. It?s upon this sense of place that the community must build.
The following listing and accompanying sketch present the actions The following listing present the actions recommended by the Consultant Team for the Old Town neighborhood.
Housing and Residential Development
New residential development will be promoted along the Iroquois and Wacootah mine pit lakes. This development will be relatively upscale and aimed at people seeking attractive and unique lakeshore property. Lake views are to be available from nearly all properties. Shared private boat docking areas are to be provided for all properties in the development.
A key feature is to have all roads connect close to downtown as a means to reinforce the new development’s connection to the existing neighborhood and to help support creation of a threshold market for possible neighborhood level businesses.
The development will likely occur in phases. The first phase should involve the land lying between the two pit lakes. The proposed summer route of the Mesabi Trail would bisect this area; alignment of the trail should be tied to the proposed access road.
Mountain Iron is considering the development of a golf course which could occupy some of this same property. The City is urged to continue planning for the course but to integrate it with the proposed housing. Together the two development would make for a striking project with a high degree of attractiveness for developers and homeowners.
This project will avoid the “caved-in” area along the Wacootah pit lake; this potentially still unstable area will be used for recreational purposes with no significant structures on it.
The quality of existing housing should be upgraded through a program of grants and loans to support rehabilitation, remodeling, expansions, and garages. The goal is to maintain the existing housing as quality affordable housing. This program should be financed with non-City funding.
The City, through its HRA, should set the goal of filling Mountain Manor. This may involve allowing non-elderly tenants, upgrading the facility, providing better transportation to local services, or similar efforts.
“Main Street” is to be another location for housing. In this area the units would be apartments (rented or owned) situated in second stories along Main Street. In keeping with the architectural mix of the main street, no single family structures including mobile homes would be allowed.
“Main Street” is defined as Main Street from the overpass to a block east of Mineral and along Mountain from Main to the overlook.
Five locations play key roles in linking the community and focusing attention to the Main Street area.
Three entry points identify the neighborhood and serve to direct visitors to Main Street. Two are along Main Street itself; one just east of the overpass and the other at Main and Mineral. The third is on Mineral at the City garage. These entry points can be identified through signs, structural features, and landscaping.
A fourth key location is the intersection of Main and Mountain. It is surrounded by the area’s prime architecture and is the point at which visitors; attention can be directed up Mountain to the overlook. At or near this point would be an excellent place for benches, signs, and other features that would cause visitors such as bicyclists touring the Mesabi Trail to stop and assess the community.
The fifth key point is the overlook at the head of Mountain Avenue. As described later, this site would be substantially redesigned to become a major historic site with improved presentation of Mountain Iron’s importance to the Iron Range.
Main Street would become a mixed use area containing commercial activities, primarily on the first floor, with residential uses on the upper floors. The most likely commercial activity would be oriented to the neighborhood but the hope is that over time tourist oriented enterprises might find the area attractive as well. Uses such as Spring Creek which combine manufacturing and retail sales would be desired as well.
There will not be a “theme” as such established for the area. Instead, buildings themselves will be used to tell the story of the community and provide the sense of place unique to it. Storefronts and buildings are to be restored to their original architectural styles. Sidewalks are to be upgraded where necessary. Business signs would be encouraged to reflect the original era of the buildings and not be forced to conform to a set style.
The public library is a valuable architectural structure which serves as a defining focal point for downtown. If the community elects to retain it as a library, then it should be upgraded so it can meet this role over time. If the community elects to cease its use as the library, then the model of the former city hall should be followed. That is, the City should seek out a responsible developer who, regardless of end use, will retain the architectural and historic qualities of the building and grounds.
Public toilets will be needed to accommodate visitors traveling to and through the neighborhood. Private facilities (e.g., in a bar or store) cannot and should not be relied upon. Public toilets can be provided through separate new facilities or via a quasi-public use such as the Senior Center (where public access can be achieved with a separate street entrance).
Decorative street furniture and lighting is not critical to the future of Old Town. However, functional lighting is critical to provide a safe atmosphere for residents and visitors. Benches should be provided at key locations, such as at the Merritt statute along Main Street, to create a more friendly image for travelers. Strategically located trash receptacles also will help create a desired image and keep the community clean.
The overlook at the head of Mountain Avenue, now called Locomotive Park, is to be dramatically rebuilt from the ground up. This site with its spectacular view over the pit lake of the point where iron ore was discovered on the Iron Range is envisioned as a revitalized core identify place for the community. Focused on presenting the founding of the Iron Range, it would possess new structures to interpret iron mining and provide the viewing point. Exhibits would be tied to Ironworld, Hill Annex Mine, Soudan Mine, and other Range mining attractions.
The site would also feature a “target” structure that directs the visitor’s eye from Main Street up along Mountain to this point. The name of the overlook should be changed from Locomotive Park to something that better identifies the place and memorializes its historic nature.
The regional Mesabi Trail system would have two routes through Mountain Iron. The summer route, which is for bicyclists and hikers, would enter from the east winding between the Iroquois and Wacootah mine pit lakes toward downtown and then leave to the west under the overpass and along the east side of Mott Pit lake. The winter route, which would be used by snowmobiles, would enter from the east at CR 202, head up that road to the City garage, run on the edge of town along Slate, and then under the overpass and past Mott Pit lake.
These routes allow the Trail to funnel summer time visitors through the heart of Old Town, encouraging them to visit the various sites, and, hopefully, provide a market for business ventures.
The Trail routes would also provide excellent connecting links for residents to other parts of the Mountain Iron and the Range.
The Mott Pit recreation area would be improved primarily for the enjoyment of residents. The Mesabi Trail would provide a trail route to the site and a new access road from the north on the east side would provide a more convenient vehicular connection. Improvements at the site would include picnic tables, paved parking, portable toilets, signs, and possibly a loop trail around the lake.
The school play ground would be rebuilt to function, as it had in the past, as the neighborhood park. This would be a joint effort between the City and school district.
The Wacootah overlook would receive a general upgrading with improved signage and landscaping.
The west side industrial area would be retained and actively promoted for appropriate businesses.
The business area just south of the Minntac entry is to be retained for mining service and related industries. Site design and landscaping would be used to visually buffer these uses from views from the surface of Wacootah pit lake and the proposed residential areas along the lakes.
Traffic and Transportation
In general, the neighborhood is sufficiently served by roads. As noted in the residential section, strict care must be taken to ensure that the access roads to the new residential development along the pit lakes connect closely to the downtown. These connections reinforce ties to the existing neighborhood and encourages creation of neighborhood convenience store market.
Related to traffic flow is the placement of a directional and information sign at the intersection of CR 202 and TH 169 sign. This is critical to directing travelers to Old Town. Although it may be tempting to undertake this action first, construction of the sign should not begin until key components (Mesabi Trail link, redeveloped Mountain Iron pit overlook) of the plan have been implemented and offer visitors the opportunity to see the “new and improved” Old Town.
“Taking advantage of opportunities” will be the hallmark of Mountain Iron’s effort to implement the recommended actions. The primary role of the City under this approach is to research, support, promote, and solicit proposals for activity in Old Downtown and adjacent areas. Securing investors and resources beyond the local general fund is essential to achieving these projects which are intended to secure the viability of the Old Downtown neighborhood.
The following are implementation steps that relate to the plan’s components. They are listed in a general sequential order within each plan component.
Housing and Residential Development
Project: Iroquois / Wacootah Development
The City “sets the stage” by creating a housing development investment opportunity. It must be understood by both the City and potential developers, that the purpose of this project is three-fold: 1) create new high-amenity housing in the City; 2) produce a profit for the developer; and, the element that is crucial for the purposes of supporting Old Downtown, this development must help create a market for other investment in commercial activity in Old Downtown.
To achieve all three goals, the following scenario is suggested. The City creates a Request for Proposals (RFP). Under this RFP the City will offer to convey parcel “X” for one dollar provided the developer prepares a survey and plat, and installs utilities roads, and other improvements. The development is to be done in ordered phases and to certain standards set by the City. The City will provide a Phase I environmental assessment . A Phase II assessment will be conducted if a need is indicated and remediation steps are required to make the site suitable for residential use; cost of Phase II to be negotiated with developer. Also, the proposed routing for the Mesabi Trail runs through this area and would need to be part of the platting and development process. Finally, a detailed development agreement would be executed to define design standards, level of investment, timing, bonds, performance thresholds and other mechanisms required to protect the interest of both parties as this process advances. The underlying concept of this project is to offer a profit making opportunity to a risk-taker in exchange for developing in a manner that benefits the City as a whole and specifically Old Downtown.
Coordination: Mesabi Trail; as the new link is routed through the development site.
Zoning change to Urban Residential District/Sewered; done at same time as Main Street district revisions (see below).
Cost components: Evaluate slope stability; Phase I environmental assessment; Initial Mesabi Trail link construction (no cost to City); preliminary engineering and site design showing likely utility routes, etc.; staff time to create, distribute, and review RFP; zoning change ? staff time, notice, hearings, etc.
Estimated cost: $45,000 for preliminary engineering study including survey, slope stability analysis, easements (utilities, public ways), and road and Mesabi Trail alignments.
$2,500 for Phase I assessment.
Staff time, legal time to develop development agreement and RFP.
Project: Amend Zoning Map
Amend the zoning map to extend the Urban Residential District, Sewered (UR/S) to cover the proposed Iroquois / Wacootah residential development area.
Coordination: Do at same time that Main Street revisions (see below) are made.
Cost components: Staff time, notice and publication, conduct of public hearing, printing of revised ordinance.
Estimated cost: Minimal.
Project: Amend Zoning Ordinance
Amend the zoning ordinance to allow, as a permitted use on Main Street, residential in mixed use developments (that is, apartments as part of commercial buildings). This would not include single family homes, mobile homes, or duplexes.
Coordination: Done at same time as zoning map change to accommodate Iroquois/Wacootah Development.
Cost components: Staff time, notice and publication, conduct of public hearing, printing of revised ordinance.
Estimated cost: Minimal.
Project: Main Street Restoration
This would be a major project primarily funded through a competitive Small City Development Block Grant (SCDBG). The project should use the proposed new residential development as part of the new tax base enhancement aspect of the project. If possible, the project should have ties with the Mesabi Trail and the redeveloped Mountain Iron pit overlook (both as economic development features). Project components would include grants/loans for storefront restoration, sidewalk upgrade, entry point work (primarily flag poles, banners, signs), second story residential development, and financing of existing housing rehabilitation program.
The storefront restoration and housing rehabilitation efforts and would be done through a grant / revolving loan program. Terms of such a program could include xxx
Coordination: With other development agencies including IRRRB and AEOA.
Cost components: Staff time to prepare grant and undertake coordination.
Estimated cost: Staff time requirements will be considerable, especially to administer the grant and oversee the projects.
Storefront grant / revolving loan program: $150,000.
Housing rehabilitation grant/revolving loan program: $250,000.
Project: Mesabi Trail Connection
Inform the Mesabi Trail organization (St. Louis and Lake Counties Regional Railroad Authority) regarding the desired route alignments in Mountain Iron. This needs to be done soon as the Mountain Iron segment is planned for construction in 2002. Insure that the route running between the Wacootah and Iroquois pit lakes follows the desired route of the street serving the new residential development.
Coordination: With Mesabi Trail.
Cost components : Staff time.
Estimated cost: Minimal.
Project: Mountain Iron Pit Overlook
This project involves a complete redesign of the overlook facility, integrating the site and its interpretation with other sites across the Iron Range, and renaming the site to be more meaningful and attractive to visitors. City should seek to have other entities, such as Ironworld and the Minnesota Historical Society, share in the design and development of the site.
Coordination: With Ironworld, Minnesota Historical Society, DNR State Parks.
Cost components: Design and construction.
Estimated cost: Will vary with actual design, but the estimated cost for the elements shown in this report’s illustrative sketch is $175,000.
City should seek funding assistance from other sources including IRRRB, Minnesota Historical Society, and DTED.
Project: Mott Pit Recreation Area Upgrade
The first part of this project is to secure the routing of the Mesabi Trail past the recreation area. The second phase is to devise a detailed redevelopment plan for the site. By tying the site to the Mesabi Trail the City should be eligible to receive funding assistance through TEA-21 funds and, perhaps, State recreation programs
Coordination: With Mesabi Trail.
Cost components: Design and construction.
Estimated cost: $30,000 (for grading, gravel parking lot, access improvements, lighting, design).
Costs for access trail and road (not estimated here) should be shared by City with such sources as TEA-21, state outdoor recreation grants, and Mesabi Trail.
Project: Mountain Iron School Playground Redesign
This project should be organized as a neighborhood effort. City’s can assist by securing cooperation of school district and providing initial leadership. Actual design and construction should be done as a cooperative enterprise led by the residents in coordination with City and school.
Coordination: With downtown redevelopment effort.
Cost components: Staff time.
Estimated cost: $57,000 for equipment and fencing (not City’s cost).
City may end up contributing to development costs but this will be determined through the design process.
Project: General Policy
In general, the City will react to development proposals rather solicit projects. The one exception is the new residential area where the City is issuing an RFP seeking qualified developers.
Coordination: With other development agencies.
Cost components: Staff time.
Estimated cost: Variable, depending upon level of activity.
Once the major redevelopment projects (Mesabi Trail link and revamped Mountain Iron pit overlook) are completed, the City is to redesign its community promotional efforts focusing on the city as the birthplace of the Mesabi Range. Actions include redesigning the City’s logo and letterhead, enhancing promotion of the Minntac tours, and coordinating promotion of the Mesabi Trail.
Coordination: With other regional tourism promotional entities.
Cost components: Design and printing of new materials; design and maintenance of additional information on web page; staff time regarding coordination.
Estimated cost: Depends upon quality and quantity of materials.
Traffic and Transportation
Project: TH 169 Signs
This project should not be undertaken until substantive improvements have been made to Old Town. In particular, the Mountain Iron Pit overlook should be redeveloped before these signs are erected.
Coordination: Timing as noted.
Cost components: Design, construction, and erection of sign(s).
Estimated cost: Varies considerably depending upon design.