Downtown consultant Ron Drake’s report was presented to interested community members by EDA Coordinator Kurk Kramer Tuesday evening.

In early April, downtown consultant Ron Drake came to Sleepy Eye to tour downtown buildings, talk to people and observe community attitudes. Drake’s job wasn’t complete when he drove away from town—he stilled owed us a report on what he learned about Sleepy Eye and advice on what to do next in the quest for a more vibrant downtown and community.

Tuesday evening, June 26, Drake’s report was presented to interested community members by EDA Coordinator Kurk Kramer. About 50 people attended the presentation at the Event Center. Kramer began by joking that Ron Drake grew a crowd of 200 for his presentation in April, and he [Kramer] could only draw in one-fourth as many people.

Drake’s analysis included three sections: the current state of Sleepy Eye, a vision for the future, a roadmap to get there. Those in attendance where given handouts of the analysis. Kramer went through the main points and attendees offered comments and questions at the end of each section.

Following are a sampling of Drake’s points.

The current state of Sleepy Eye:

•People have community pride, yet don’t believe great things can happen in Sleepy Eye.

•9,000 cars pass through downtown daily. Is Sleepy Eye fully capitalizing on that?

•Excellent quality of life—good schools, low cost of living, great parks and outdoor lifestyle.

•Many downtown buildings are in need of repair and updates.

•Sleepy Eye has a culture that is averse to change.

•Shortage of housing in middle income bracket.

•Retail and residential “leakage” to New Ulm is widely accepted.

A vision for the future:

•Strong Main Street with support from all major industry. Many annual downtown events to draw.

•Downtown filled with people of all ages creating and enjoying a fun and vibrant cultural center.

•The community believes in themselves and wants to invest in Sleepy Eye. They believe that cool restaurants and residential will work.

•People driving along the highway stop in downtown to shop and stay.

•Citizens are open to ideas and change.

•There is a closer interaction between the lake, parks and downtown.

Roadmap to get there:

•Form a downtown organization to champion this effort; City Hall cannot do this alone, it must be a grassroots effort from the community.

•Downtown group needs to communicate the importance of a vibrant downtown.

•Get a project started and celebrate the heck out of it! Start the message that downtown restoration is happening in Sleepy Eye.

•Be certain building permits are streamlined and encourage local officials to fully understand the Existing Building portion of the International Building Code.

•Hold a community vision session. Change happens with a clear, concise vision.

The report contains many more observances and suggestions. Contact Kurk Kramer for a copy of the report.

What happens next? Kramer said to watch for announcement of a community visioning session in July or August. All interested community members will be invited to take part.