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Dickinson downtown association takes shape

The Dickinson Roller Derby team helps children make beaded key chains at Alive@5 in downtown Dickinson on Thursday. It was Alive@5 and other downtown events that inspired the city to bring in Gary Reddick and crew to begin serious plans for downtown revitalization.

It's no secret that Dickinson is in the midst of a growth spurt. With all the changes going on at the outer edges of the city, a group of like-minded individuals is trying to keep the city's heart beating strongly.

As the city talks of downtown revitalization, those most affected -- business owners, residents and interested parties -- have gotten together to form a group to deliver the citizens' message.

"The city has been very active in trying to form some downtown initiatives, getting some of the buildings up, possibly getting investors and making it a vibrant area," said Josh Nichols, who has been involved in downtown events and served as the group's spokesman at the July 1 Dickinson City Commission meeting. "The goal of (the downtown association) was to have a representative body for the downtown retailers and businesses and those types of things."

The inspiration for downtown revitalization came from Alive@5, the summertime weekly Thursday evening street festival created by the Odd Fellows Lodge that began last year, said Cooper Whitman, executive director of the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce.

Whitman was in Rapid City, S.D., with City Administrator Shawn Kessel, City Commissioner Carson Steiner, city staff and business owners on a fact-finding mission from Gary Reddick, president of V3 Studio, the creative lead of Dickinson Development Group, which is in charge of downtown revitalization.

"It was just them deciding our downtown needed some help, so they threw that together last year, it led to the city hiring that consultant to establish a vision for downtown and now he's been hired to execute that vision," Whitman said. "It inspired the downtown association to reassemble and refocus."

With the city involved in revitalization, those that led early downtown operations like Alive@5 wanted to create a voice for business owners and other downtown patrons to really tell the city what they wanted, Nichols said.

"Something's going to happen in Dickinson -- there's going to be increase, there's going to be buildings, there's going to be new restaurants, there's going to be new things," Nichols said. "We want those new things to be downtown. It's going to happen regardless. If we want it downtown, we need to make a concerted effort to direct that to downtown."

The group has been meeting Mondays at 10 a.m. at the Odd Fellows Lodge to brainstorm and kick around ideas about downtown Dickinson, Nichols said. The end goal of the brainstorming meetings is to elect a steering committee to lead the group further and become the official representatives for downtown. There are two more brainstorming meetings before steering committee elections on Aug. 5. Nominations are due Aug. 2.

"As a group, we decided at the meetings so far that the only decision we're really going to make as this organic group -- this kind of unofficial group -- is who is going to lead the steering committee," Nichols said. "And the other objectives are to create a list of what they're going to start working on once they're selected on Aug. 5."

The group has yet to be named.

"When you can get a lot of those people around a table or around a room and sitting and talking about a unified goal -- shared goals and shared ideas -- only good things can happen," Whitman said. "Another major benefit is the respect and power that a group has rather than individuals. The city is going to execute a plan and we can, as downtown people ... share your ideas and coordinate."

A new business making its downtown debut is Desiree's Designs, located upstairs in the old Village building at 46 First Ave. W.

"I'm excited to be downtown," said Desiree Farrington, owner. "I love downtown. I love the older things and the architecture, so I'm excited about my space."

Farrington's store will be open this weekend. Desiree's Designs will be open one weekend a month.

Anyone with an interest in downtown can attend the brainstorming meeting, and it's not too late to join.

"We want anybody to show up who has an interest," Nichols said. "All are welcome."

For more information, visit The site currently serves as the Alive@5 homepage, but on the left menu there is a link for the downtown association.

"I'm really excited to have the downtown businesses a part of it," Whitman said. "The meetings we've been having every Monday morning at 10 have been so productive and have been so inspiring. They inspire optimism in me and I'm usually a pretty optimistic person."

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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