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2018 Top 10: No. 8 - Efforts build on momentum for Downtown Brainerd

The public was invited to contribute in painting the mural, titled "You Betcha," as part of the DeTOUR Downtown initiative. The Crossing Arts Alliance Director Lisa Jordan asked Powers to create the mural to help brighten the urban landscape. Dispatch file photo

Momentum to revitalize downtown Brainerd continued in 2018.

From a second Destination Downtown Business Challenge attracting even more entrepreneurs to participate than the first effort, to efforts to integrate art into downtown, to continued plans to build on momentum for the River to Rail initiative, downtown Brainerd had an eventful year.

The winner of the second Destination Downtown business contest is bringing a bakery to downtown Brainerd in 2019.

Marie Kirsch's vision to create a modern take on her grandmother's kitchen for a downtown Brainerd bakery with Knotty Pine Bakery won the 2018 Destination Downtown Business Challenge.

Picked from more than 70 applicants, Kirsch was one of three finalists for the second community-supported business challenge with its $50,000 prize to help start her business in downtown Brainerd.

Brenda Billman-Arndt's bath boutique, Purple Fern Bath Co., was the winner of the first Destination Downtown Business Challenge in 2017. The boutique opened in May on Laurel Street.

The other finalists last year, Lisa and Bill Desrocher's microdistillery, or a tasting room, that offers to create an experience not unlike an upscale coffee shop atmosphere but with spirits; and Ed Mattson's vision to expand on the Last Turn Saloon and Eatery to create a draw for downtown Brainerd to host events, offer a brew pub and expanded restaurant, both reported they would proceed with their business plans win or lose. Both efforts were surprised with a prize package $10,000 during the award night. The first contest inspired 49 applications.

The other two finalists this year—Mark Nesheim, Sourdough Sam's Cook Shanty and Lindsay Topp, BluPaisley Boutique—were offered $17,000 each to continue their efforts to expand their businesses to downtown Brainerd.

The River to Rail initiative seeks to continue to build on momentum with Destination Downtown and the reinvestment in the city's core city blocks with a focus on the area between the Mississippi River and the former Brainerd railyard hub that is now the Northern Pacific Center with ideas for art, green space, trails, reinvestment. The beautification efforts are part of the goal to grow the tax base and attract workers to relocate here.

With many areas working to keep customer traffic during street construction projects in 2018, downtown Brainerd incorporated art to attract people. One of those efforts created an eye-catching mural outside of The Crossing Arts Alliance building in downtown Brainerd, with the work of local artist Tony Powers and the community members who joined in the collaborative public art project.

The public was invited to contribute in painting the mural, titled "You Betcha," as part of the DeTOUR Downtown initiative. The Crossing Arts Alliance Director Lisa Jordan asked Powers to create the mural to help brighten the urban landscape.

DeTOUR Downtown, a creative placemaking collaboration between Brainerd Restoration, the Region Five Development Commission, Sage on Laurel, Five Wings Arts Council and the city of Brainerd, focused on bringing people downtown during the South Sixth Street reconstruction project this summer.

Funded through a social crowdfunding campaign, DeTOUR Downtown also brought events including "Seeing Music, Hearing Canvas," a July event featuring local musician Bruce Archer playing music while visual artists painted; the Crow Wing Co-Op's annual farmers market July 28; and "Downtown Belly Bliss," an Aug. 3 performance by Belly Dance by Megg and her dance troupe. The project also funded a series of creations by Cynthia Askerooth-Olson, who put together a variety of yard and table games, group art activities and more.