The Chaska downtown business community would not normally have strong opinions on school referendums beyond wanting to maintain a healthy and attractive school system that draws new households to the area.
This referendum is different. It presents a special opportunity to help keep our downtown healthy and vibrant well into the future, because significant new development is planned that directly hinges on this referendum. Allow me to explain.
Ten years ago the economy was in a recession, and downtown Chaska was hurting. The city, the downtown business community, civic organizations and ordinary citizens collaborated on a Downtown Revitalization Master Plan. The first major installment of that plan was the redevelopment of Firemen’s Park, the Chaska Event Center and the Curling Center. By all accounts this has been a resounding success.
The next major element in the plan is redeveloping the City Square West block in the heart of downtown. We originally envisioned the library moving to this site. The citizen task force looking at the project determined that City Square West was not the best spot for a library, and that we absolutely wanted to keep our library downtown. So another task force was created to find an alternative location.
After many more months of meetings and community input, the best spot for the new library was identified as the block where the Carver County License Center now stands. But what to do with the license center?
Here is where we get back to the referendum. Ballot Question 2 includes building a new bus garage for the school district. The existing bus garage is half the size needed for the current number of busses, resulting in significant operational inefficiencies and higher costs. And the existing facility clearly can’t support more students coming from the enormous growth now occurring on the western side of Chaska.
The bus garage is the perfect size for the Carver County License Center though, and it would allow the county to consolidate social services functions under the same roof. So the county wins (cost savings from consolidated services a new facility); the school district wins (with a fiscally responsible “right sized” bus garage); the library wins (expanded services in a modern new building in the heart of downtown); and downtown businesses win, with the hundreds of thousands of downtown visits that the new library would attract each year.
The referendum is the first domino that needs to fall. The next domino is a new bus garage. The third domino is consolidating the License Center and Social Services in the bus garage space. And the last domino is a new modern library that will attract thousands of new visitors downtown for years to come.
So support your schools. Support your library. And support your local small business community by voting Yes for the referendum on Nov. 5.
Chaska Downtown Business Alliance