DETROIT LAKES, Minn.-There are a lot of development possibilities for West Lake Drive:

-- A two-level parking deck could stretch across most of the existing Lakeside Tavern parking lot and replace the Holiday Haven motel. A mixed-use project would line the front of the parking deck next to Lakeside Tavern, with a rooftop deck that overlooks the lake. Special features like awnings, goose-neck lighting and quality materials would help the parking deck blend in with its surroundings.

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-- Further west along the street, three or four large "mixed use" complexes that combine retail shops and housing could replace older cabin-style motels, a coin laundry and individual houses.

-- Peoples Street and Forest Street could extend into the fairgrounds and tie into a new street that connects to West Lake Drive. The streets could be closed to traffic during the fair.

-- A multi-use trail would run roughly between the new developments along the beach through the fairgrounds. Promenades would lead to a central plaza in the center of the fairgrounds complex.

-- The city bath houses on Rossman and Legion Road would be remodeled or replaced, with enhancements like splash pads for kids at the Legion and Pavilion site.

-- The Becker County Fairgrounds "will remain a target site for development in the foreseeable future," according to the plan. Alternate uses for the fairground site include a new neighborhood, with a mix from single-family homes to apartments.

The Detroit Lakes waterfront will have a whole new look if developers pursue plans proposed for the West Lake Drive area.
The Detroit Lakes waterfront will have a whole new look if developers pursue plans proposed for the West Lake Drive area.

Or a conference-event center could be built there- a concept mentioned in the 2008 plan that should be updated "to understand changes in the marketplace, including the performance of newer venues like the Sanford Center in Bemidji and the Fairfield Inn down the street."

It recommends a joint Fair Board-city facility and space needs study, including alternative sites for the fairgrounds.

As part of the plan, the arena parking lot could be reconfigured to increase the number of parking spaces.

-- The plan recommends leaving the American Legion campground alone, for now. But "over a long period," as conditions change, the site could be developed. "Suggestions for reuse include developing the area as a new neighborhood, a hotel and conference center, community school, and multi-family housing," the study says.

Artist's rendition of what a new Pavilion and improved beach area might look like on the east end of the mile-long Detroit Lakes
Artist's rendition of what a new Pavilion and improved beach area might look like on the east end of the mile-long Detroit Lakes

Key elements include "cottage housing" and multi-family units, with parking on the main level and three stories of housing above, in place of the campground.

-- As for the street project itself, the plan recommends widening the sidewalk along the beach, running a multi-use trail along the side of the street, and adding green space, small parks and streetscaping amenities.

-- It also recommends closing the city boat launch off Rossman Avenue to motorized boats (while keeping it open for non-motorized watercraft) and possibly relocating the launch for motorized boats to an area near the bathhouse on the Pavilion end of the beach.

-- The city will have to decide what to do about the Pavilion, which is slowly sinking on one end. The plan recommends that the pavilion be torn down and replaced, using some of the original elements in an aesthetic way to "honor the Pavilion's past role in the community."

On the Washington Ballpark (which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places) the plan offers several possibilities:

-- Restore the 1920s-vintage stadium and add a corner plaza in the style of a traditional ballpark.

-- Preserve the ballpark, but move the grandstands to the corner of North Shore Drive and Washington Avenue. That would allow Langford and Forest streets to be aligned where they meet at Washington Avenue, while retaining the stormwater retention benefits of the ballpark.

-- Lose the ballpark and replace it with mixed-use development-retail on the bottom and housing on the top, built along Washington Avenue, with parking behind. It could be larger or smaller depending on whether the city wanted to align Langford and Forest streets This option "should involve the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office," the study states.

With the Becker County Fairgrounds in the background, an artist's rendition of mixed-use development replacing older cabin-style
With the Becker County Fairgrounds in the background, an artist's rendition of mixed-use development replacing older cabin-style

The entire study area is in the state shoreland management district, and the impervious surface limits would require big development projects to acquire a number of smaller lots in order to meet the requirements.

These are just some highlights. A copy of the 70-plus page proposed plan is now available on www.plandetroitlakes.com.

The Detroit Lakes Development Authority at a special meeting on March 22 approved the document, which is now available for public review and comment, and at least one public hearing will be held on it.

Once given final approval, the West Lake Drive plan will then become part of the city's updated Comprehensive Plan, which was given a similar review by the Planning Commission at another special meeting, also held March 22.

Detroit Lakes residents, public officials and business people participated in a series of public input meetings, focus group gatherings and open houses held over the past year, spurred by the City Council decision to commission RDG Planning & Design to create a plan for development of the West Lake Drive corridor. It's part of an overall update to the city's 2008 Business Corridor Plan, which was also the work of RDG.

"Typically the council would adopt the plan as presented," said Detroit Lakes Community Development Director Larry Remmen. "This is a guideline, our vision of the future-we can use this as a framework and guidelines for future decision and public and private development in the area, just like it did for downtown."

While the city can implement some elements on its own, the biggest question is whether private developers will be interested in the plan, said City Development Authority chairman Tom Klyve.

"Are there developers who will risk investment and build along West Lake Drive-that's the biggest unknown," he said. "But if a concept gets them thinking and they realize they aren't going to be told no when they come in," the plan could spark some interest, he said.

"That's how the plan works, to generate some excitement and investment," Remmen said.

Reporter Vicki Gerdes contributed to this story.