BRAINERD – Landscaping and aesthetics were a major concern for business owners on and around the Highway 210 corridor on Tuesday, March 29, as plans continue to expand for the highway’s reconstruction in 2025 .

The Brainerd City Council Workshop was an open discussion between residents and business owners, council members and Paul Sandy, City Engineer and Brainerd Director of Public Works, to give their input on a planned reconstruction project from Highway 210/Washington Street between Baxter Drive and Pine Shores Road in Brainerd.

Development of the project began in December 2019, with the first in-person open house scheduled for March 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, a virtual open house was held in winter 2020, with more than 1,000 community members reviewing project documents online, sharing concerns about the Highway 210 corridor and gave feedback on what they would like to see improved.

Residents and business owners of Brainerd, Tuesday, March 29, discuss the planned reconstruction of the 210/Washington Street Freeway between Baxter Drive and Pine Shores Road in Brainerd.

Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

Fewer than 10 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, which focused on aesthetics. Sandy asked attendees for their thoughts on the features and look they envisioned for Brainerd’s downtown.

“As I said in the letter, this is somewhat of a once-in-a-lifetime type of reconstruction project and it’s important that we get it right the first time,” Sandy said.

Seeking to tie 210 to the revitalization of downtown Brainerd, local business owners Marc Halverson and Brian Moon spoke about accessibility and safety for those who frequent the area.

“What message does Brainerd give to pedestrian and bicycle traffic?” Moon asked. “Are you welcome? Are you invited? Are you wanted here? So when you say Gateway, that’s part of the Gateway message that we’re a family-friendly community. Live, work, play and stay at Brainerd It was part of the overall plan and we are creating a reason for it.

Some additional comments focused on intersections, saying there were too many red lights, poorly timed red lights, and too few turning lanes.

Looking out of a window in downtown Brainerd
Along the planned construction route, Easy Riders can be seen from Brainerd Floral on Highway 210 and North Fourth Street.

Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

“It’s a busy hallway,” Halverson said. “I try to walk to see Kelly (Bevans) across the street and hope the lights are good, but usually they’re not. Sometimes it’s better to get in your car and drive, turn right around a few blocks and back, just to cross the street.

The meeting raised concerns about continued access to businesses and the ability to walk around those businesses.

Sandy said any time you have these types of projects there is tension. Brainerd wants the freeway improvements to have positive economic development for the city, although the Minnesota Department of Transportation is not in the business of economic development, it is concerned with moving vehicles efficiently.

“We keep saying it’s about Brainerd residents, but it’s also about business owners,” said Dave Badeaux, Mayor of Brainerd. “When you have property on that corner, we have a responsibility as a city to make sure we put you in the best position when we redesign a major road.”

As the meeting was an open discussion forum between the city and its members, Sandy said he was seeking guidance from everyone present on the project and where it should go.

“What I’m hearing is that the focus on crossings should really be in this central neighborhood,” Badeaux said.

Brainerd Town Council
Tiffany Stenglein, left, Kelly Bevans, Dave Badeaux and David Pritschet discuss the planned reconstruction of the 210/Washington Street Freeway between Baxter Drive and Pine Shores Road in Brainerd Tuesday, March 29 at Brainerd City Hall.

Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd plans to gather more information about the cost and maintenance of concrete and colored brick pavers while looking at specific areas where they can create a designated crossing that would perhaps stand out more than some of the other crossings in level along the highway.

From an amenity perspective, everyone present wanted the city to have a better plan when it came to the strategic placement of benches and other necessities around the city.

Along with consensus on the dark sky lighting review, council and business owners were united to slow traffic as vehicles move through the city.

A group of board members and business owners is being put together by Sandy to gather information in the coming months with plans to continue the discussion around the 2025 Highway 210 reconstruction project.

TIM SPEIER, editor, can be reached on Twitter

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