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Red Rock Corridor branding begins

Construction of the Newport Transit Station is under way, and city and county officials are collaborating to promote long-term development around the Red Rock Corridor.

The Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority partnered with the city of Newport last month to design infrastructure improvements, which include a stormwater management plan, and develop a marketable brand for the corridor.

The collaboration has enlisted the help of Nancy Doyle Brown, a communications consultant, to get the project in the sightline of developers.

“First we want to learn all we can about developers,” Doyle Brown said. “We have a really well-defined business challenge in front of us and that is to attract developers to the project. I already have 42 questions: How do developers think? Why do they look at the projects they look at? How does ours compare to others?”

In 2011, the Washington County HRA facilitated a developers forum which gave city and county officials a general idea of what expectations were for redevelopment. The following year the county HRA and the city of Newport adopted a redevelopment plan for the southwest corner of Newport.

Since then, HRA Executive Director Barbara Dacy said there have been conversations with more than 10 developers.

“We want to build off the momentum of the transit center,” Dacy said, adding that the goal “is to create a consistent type of message about the vision and values and opportunities in the redevelopment of the Red Rock area.”

In her proposal, Doyle Brown outlined objectives which require a unique naming strategy, including the creation of a visual identity, logo and key messages, design of a marketing plan and develop a long-term guide for communications.

Doyle Brown suggested creating a name that separates itself from other transit stops in the metro.

“We want to have some independence from the Red Rock Rail Corridor,” she said while avoiding the use of the word “gateway,” as there is a similar project being proposed along Interstate 94 from the St. Croix River to downtown St. Paul.

However, Mayor Tim Geraghty and council member Tracy Rahm suggested otherwise.

“The Red Rock name is rooted here,” Geraghty said. “It seems like to everyone that it’s taking off. How do we maintain that? I mean, Red Rock has a long history here. It belongs to us.”

Doyle Brown said that naming the area, which is the second phase of the redevelopment, will be discussed in detail during subsequent council workshops.

In recent conversations with a former senior designer at Metro Transit, Doyle Brown said creating a visual identity will be the third phase in the process. She added by spring 2014 she should have branding ideas to move forward.

Stormwater management plan ahead of residential construction

With redevelopment comes needed infrastructure improvements, a perfect time, Doyle Brown said, to implement a new stormwater management plan.

In 2012, the Washington County HRA submitted an application for a Metropolitan Council-funded grant to assist in the redevelopment of the Red Rock Corridor. The Livable Communities grant would have supported a 65-unit housing development and subsequent infrastructure improvements near the Newport Transit Station.

However, the grant was not awarded.

The Met Council cited a strong industrial character, lack of connection to the Mississippi River and poor bedrock and soil conditions as major reasons for not funding the project.

In an attempt to bridge the gap between the city and the Mississippi River, City Planner Sherri Buss is proposing the implementation of a stormwater management project that would include both stormwater and groundwater.

With all the stormwater and shallow groundwater currently going directly to the river with minimal treatment, Buss suggested a strategy that would include options to clean the stormwater before it hits the river, as well as capturing and using the groundwater that flows through the redevelopment site.

This “flowing stream” concept could incorporate a buffer as part of an open space or park area. In her memo, Buss highlighted the use of the “flowing stream” as a signature amenity that is used in communities around the metro — including the Phalen Corridor in St. Paul and the Arbor Lakes Shopping Center in Maple Grove.

“A stormwater plan would avoid a piecemeal approach and provide a wonderful opportunity to provide a unique connection to the river and create an amenity,” Doyle Brown said.

The creation of an amenity and access to the river has the potential to capture the attention of the Met Council this time around and the city plans to submit another application for the Livable Communities grant.

The proposed stormwater management plan, while still in its infancy, requires more analysis. Early cost estimates for the study spiked near $80,000 — for both engineering study and landscape designs. However, Buss’ firm, TKDA, has consulted with another firm to lower the cost to just over $35,000. About one-third of the cost is expected to be paid for by the South Washington Watershed District.

The outcome of the study will identify key stormwater management facilities and potential locations, opportunities to turn the endeavor into an amenity, costs and future maintenance needs, and opportunities for grant applications.

The study is expected to be complete in May.

“This is how we see things going into the future and we really want to go into this in the spring,” Doyle Brown said. “Over the next few months we’ll be working on this quite a bit. We’ll continue to have conversations with the city of Newport and make sure we’re getting all the information we need.

“At the end of the day we don’t want people to be aware,” she added, “we want people to take action. We want to motivate people, developers to be the first into this project. All marketing work will be geared toward that goal.”