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'Main Street' vision to improve quality of life

They have been known as the Afton Beaners and the VHS Citizens Group. Now, however, they go by the name of Main Street Afton.

Irrespective of name, the 65 residents and business owners who make up the group have one common goal: to improve the quality of life in Afton.

"Because we haven't been able to work together on projects for things, it's resulted in a really dreadful business climate," explained Bob Dickie, who is the catalyst for the organization's formation.

"Our more modest goals are to create a climate where private property owners, both residential and commercial, can invest in those properties and improve them.

"It's a quality of life issue. We want to create an environment where people are comfortable living, working and playing."

The name of the group, Main Street Afton, was chosen after it was decided that the affectionate name of Afton Beaners (so given due to the members' meeting place of the Afton Bean Coffee House) did not convey the appropriate image.

Main Street Afton is used by permission of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns the trademark for the phrase as it applies to the revitalization of traditional and historic commercial districts.

As such, Main Street Afton must abide by the four points of the Trust's approach to revitalization, which cover organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.

"Afton is different," said Dickie, an attorney who works on St. Croix Trail and lives in the Old Village. "We don't want to turn into Stillwater and we don't want to be an old Cottage Grove; Afton can be more than that.

"It's just in such a beautiful, beautiful location.

"Once we understand how to connect our natural environment with our business and residential environment, it will be an amazing place to live and work."

Main Street Afton has five immediate goals:

• Create or advocate ordinances which provide for predictability.

n Start working to improve the connection between the village and the St. Croix River.

• Create a pedestrian-friendly Main Street by working with Washington County on changes to CR-21.

• Seek to bring new businesses in to Afton by marketing empty properties.

• Promote Afton as a residential, business and recreational destination.

Following its inaugural meeting in fall 2007, Main Street Afton says it aims to bring together residents, business owners and city and county officials to remove any mistrust between the different parties.

The group made a presentation to the Afton Planning Commission at its February meeting, explaining that it hoped to incorporate as a non-profit organization.