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City turns focus to redevelopment, marketing

Woodbury officials are beginning to take steps toward a new strategic plan that includes more emphasis on marketing and redevelopment.

Wheels were just starting to turn at a casual brainstorming session City Council members held last week at the La Lake retreat center.

Members pointed out what the city has been doing well, they reacted to recent survey results and suggested ways an overall communications and marketing plan would help enhance economic development in a growing city like Woodbury.

"We need to continue to ask why we do the things we do," Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said. "Under what conditions they will no longer work."

For a while, Woodbury was focusing on getting open land developed and ready for residential and commercial neighborhoods.

In 2010, the Economic Development Commission developed a strategic plan that included reinvestment as a focus.

The city was then able to market large vacant businesses like the former Borders and Brickwell Bank buildings, Economic Development Manager Janelle Schmitz said.

"Some of those that kind of go under the radar," she said. "You don't really realize that they were there and then they're occupied."

One building that's been vacant for several years is the State Farm Insurance complex at Interstate 94 and Radio Drive.

The facility, which sits on 100 acres, poses challenges that may not come with much smaller businesses like Borders, which was filled with Aldi last year.

"We can't just say, boom, there will be this business in State Farm," City Administrator Clint Gridley said. "We don't have those powers."

State Farm is a private property the city doesn't have control over, he explained.

"It's not like Bielenberg Sports Center, (where) it's ours, it's tangible, we can do whatever we want there," Gridley said. "But when it comes to State Farm, we don't have a lot of tools, if any."

The city does have zoning regulations on the property, though, he said.

"And we do again think about redevelopment and we do try to market the city," he said. "But it's a private company and it's marketed separately."

The overall marketing and communications strategic plan would coincide with economic development since the goal is to grow the city's tax base, city officials agreed.

Woodbury should "relentlessly pursue the growth in our tax base," Council Member Paul Rebholz said.

It's not just about one large vacant building, he said: it's State Farm, the medical campus, involvement in regional transportation plans, and more.

And with some neighborhoods built in the 1960s and 1970s, it's time to begin thinking about maintaining those areas as well, city officials said.

Woodbury has been fortunate enough that a lot of the commercial and residential properties came to the city based on surrounding amenities and existing long-term planning efforts, Rebholz said.

Now it's time to keep up, continue to get resident input during processes and prioritize, he said.

Staff members plan to draft a new 2013-2015 strategic plan in the next few months and bring it to council for final approval later this year.

"The future is very successful and bright," Rebholz said. "Residents are engaged, we still have what I would call an inclusive community."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.