Whenever I go downtown for various reasons, I always like to look to see what’s new.
In case you don’t know, much has changed in downtown Dickinson over the past few years.
There always seems to be a new business to check out and street art has made once-dirty alleyways and the sides of buildings a sight to see.
Of course, there’s also First On First, the popular summer street fair and concert series formerly known as Alive at Five that draws crowds too.
Good things are happening in downtown Dickinson, and the city has leaders and stakeholders happily leading the charge to ensure this.
That said, I want to both send my admiration and give some advice to the hardworking folks who have taken on the task of revitalizing downtown Dickinson.
For all the work that’s being done, I can’t help but see how far downtown has to go. And while there are some empty storefronts, my big gripe is in the aesthetics. For every downtown Dickinson building with a beautiful or classic exterior, there’s one that needs work. And some of them need lots of work.
Now, the Downtown Dickinson Association’s efforts have been key to improving the neighborhood and making sure that for every business that leaves, there’s another ready to take its place.
The time is coming for the association and city leaders to start encouraging businesses and building owners in this renaissance zone to look the part of being the vibrant downtown they so strive to be.
Look at Bernie’s Esquire Club, for example. It’s still the same bar as it has been, but a facelift to its exterior last summer has made downtown Dickinson a nicer-looking place, plain and simple.
While many of the buildings are perfect just the way they are, there are others who need to follow Bernie’s lead and invest in adding a little curb appeal.
While Dickinson’s economy is much slower than it has been in recent years, it isn’t so slow that businesses can’t afford to pay for some new siding or a sign. Dickinson has grand designs for downtown.
The public square idea for the corner of Sims and Villard Street is something I can get behind, but only if the rest of downtown follows suit. Some of the best downtowns in the country — and especially those right here in North Dakota — have made exterior renovations a key piece of their revitalization efforts.
Fargo, Bismarck and now even Williston are the best examples. All those cities learned that making their downtowns look just a little bit nicer goes a long way to ensuring people want to be there.
Downtown Dickinson has a lot of things going for it. Even as some of its key storefronts on Villard sit empty, there is potential. If the oil industry bounces back, there may not be much time or many resources available to make the improvements downtown leaders hope to make. Now is the time to push forward on beautifying downtown.