Brainerd: What's In It For You?

We need to think seriously about what renovating the Brainerd building would do for the community.

I know that some people question the ongoing drive to restore the Brainerd Building and turn it into a community center. Some people think we should just tear it down to add parking spaces for the high school. What saddens me is that many of those in favor of demolition are young people, children who are being brought up to believe that new is better, and the old should just be tossed aside. (This "dump the old" philosophy worries me more and more as I myself age.)

The thing to remember is that the Brainerd Building isn’t just some decrepit, useless old shell. It is structurally sound and architecturally interesting, and more, it can offer so much more than just nostalgia to the community. The location is walkable by children and adults alike, and the space is practical and very usable. Other than some obvious large expenses, such as the roof, HVAC and electrical work, the building needs mainly cosmetic repair, after which it could become a vital part of the community once more.

We need to get away from the mentality that says old is not good. Our earth is at a critical point—we need to recycle and reuse as much as possible if we expect to survive the next millennium. That includes already-built structures that can be reclaimed. Remember, every building we save means one less requiring new energy and resources being used.

Saving Brainerd is a no-brainer. And no Brainerd would be a shame.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tim Johnston July 18, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Don't take this the wrong way, but what do we need it for? Does the high school need more classroom space? Is the civic center inadequate? If so, taking into all the costs, what is the cheapest way to fix these problems? The difference between the lowest reasonable cost approach to fixing these problems and the cost in restoring, cleaning up, and repurposing Brainerd is what must be overcome by Ms. Lee's well-stated rationales (which are supported by many wise folks). I dont pretend to have the dollar amounts at my fingertips, but I'm just not sure it is worth it, taking into account larger budget realities.
Jill Harkaway July 18, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Tim and Donny, come to the next open house at Brainerd. Do a little research to see that saving the building saves money, energy and resources. Tearing it down and throwing away the resources present does not make sense or save money.
John Snow July 19, 2011 at 09:45 PM
To see the value of the Brainerd Community Center for gathering the community come to the North Shore Wine, Beer, Cigar and Food Festival on August 27th. Get information and buy discounted tickets at www.northshorewinebeerfest.com
J.B.L. July 21, 2011 at 02:58 PM
A town of 23K is big enough, and in fact begs for a place where people can once again come together as a community. Smaller towns than this have turned old buildings into viable, thriving community centers. One example is Burlington, WI, just over the border. An old church has been converted into a terrific space and now houses a very active children's theater, martial arts instruction, a Montessori preschool, art gallery, and activities rooms. It is busy morning till night, and offers a safe place for children after school. Brainerd could offer even more, and there is interest by both civic groups and private businesses, which would provide the funding to make the building self-sustaining.
Donny July 21, 2011 at 08:57 PM
Jill, please tell us how restoring this building saves money, energy, and resources? I have been in this building and my best uneducated guess is it will take 3 to 4 million just to fix the big stuff - roof, paint, mold remediation, etc. Making Brainerd into a community center will be an even boondoggle than say the Sports Complex, or Franks Nusery and Crafts property.


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