WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) - - Much like La Crosse, Winona's downtown has changed rapidly over the years.
Five years ago today, a major fire destroyed a section of the city's downtown.
Since then, there have been two more fires, but city officials said many of the damaged buildings have been remodeled and downtown Winona has never been better.
Several new apartment buildings, restaurants, offices and stores have been built in downtown Winona over the last few years. City officials are hoping all those changes will attract more people to downtown.
Emily Kurash, the coordinator of Winona’s Main Street Program said, "Taking some of these old buildings that are part of Winona’s legacy downtown and creating new uses in these spaces."
Several old, worn-out buildings are being transformed to house modern retail and living spaces.
"It's been a really exciting growth," Kurash said.
Shesaid there's a growing desire to live downtown.
"There is definitely momentum building around wanting to live and work and be in a place and thinking about not having to drive everywhere all the time," Kurash said.
She's only been with the Main Street Program for four years, but already she's seen a lot of change.
"The Latsch and Son Building is an example of a fantastic historic renovation that has been successfully completed in Winona, Levee Park downtown in Winona was recently renovated," Kurash said.
And many Winona residents are already enjoying the changes, Kurash said.
"The farmers market has been set up here every Saturday. It's exciting to see kids at the splash pad all the time and it's really fantastic to have a place for people to come and gather outside downtown in a place that they haven't been able to do so in a long, long time,” Kurash said.
Even though the fire five years ago and the two fires since then destroyed some buildings downtown, they didn't slow down progress.
"There are things that we have lost in those fires. While that's unfortunate, we've used it as an opportunity to see what we can grow from," Kurash said.
One of the biggest projects currently under construction is a development called Main Square.
The building is similar to Belle Square in La Crosse.
It will feature housing, a Montessori school, Winona Health, a restaurant and retail space.
Officials said there are many more projects in the works and they think downtown Winona will be expanding for years to come.
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