Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Is a Somali restaurant next in line for a new paint color in historic Faribault? March 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 1:08 PM

This Somali restaurant, Banadir Restaurant in historic downtown Faribault is now targeted for a new paint color. What about the building on the left?

FIRST THEY DIDN’T like green. Now it’s red.

What’s with this town?

Last fall some business owners, unhappy with the vivid green color of The Los 3 Reyes Bakery in downtown Faribault, successfully got that building repainted a subtle gray-green. How? After bakery owner Mariano Perez said he couldn’t afford to repaint his recently-painted bakery, the objecting business people passed the hat. (Read my Sept. 30, Oct. 6 and Nov. 9, 2009, and March 4, 2010, posts for more background.)

The bright green Los 3 Reyes Bakery, before it was repainted. What about that building on the right?

The Los 3 Reyes Bakery in downtown Faribault after it was repainted a subtler, almost gray- green.

All of this stirred up quite the debate in Faribault about the color of buildings in our historic downtown. From the man/woman on the street to the City Council to business owners to the Heritage Preservation Commission, everyone has an opinion, me included.

While I appreciate the historic beauty of old buildings, I really struggle with the whole idea of new government regulations or guidelines that aim at dictating color choices. Faribault already has sufficient guidelines in place to protect historic buildings.

What’s acceptable to me or the mayor or my neighbor as a color choice may be totally unacceptable to someone like Perez, who hails from Mexico.

And, just for the record, I embraced the original vivid green on Perez’ bakery.

Now, fast forward to this week, when the City Council adopted a resolution to apply for a Picture-It-Painted grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

This time Banadir Restaurant, a Somali business two blocks from the Mexican bakery, is the target for a proposed new paint job. It seems “someone” doesn’t like the predominantly red, accented by green and white, building colors.

I as much as figured more buildings would be the focus of suggested facelifts.

According to the adopted City Council resolution (published on the city Web site), the Picture-It-Painted grant application was “developed jointly with the property owner of 211 Central Avenue and the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce.”

The resolution continues: “…the City has determined there is a public benefit to submitting this application in order to preserve and enhance a contributing building located within the historic commercial district.”

OK then, how do you define “enhance?” Is a new paint color more enhancing than the red, green and white already on the building?

Or would this be a step toward limiting freedom of choice? I think so.

Information from the SMIF Web site states that “project priority (is) based on visual impact, public benefit, volunteer participation and support, intended use, and benefit to those in need.”

To add to the drama, consider this: City staff submitted the Picture-It-Painted grant before the City Council approved the submission. The grant application deadline was March 3 and the Council approved the resolution, by a 4 – 2 vote, on March 9. Is this normal procedure, to submit a grant application first and then ask for rubber stamp approval later?

The debate continues. Grant awardees will be notified by the end of March. Will Banadir Restaurant be repainted or not?

What’s your take on all of this? I welcome comments and insights.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


4 Responses to “Is a Somali restaurant next in line for a new paint color in historic Faribault?”

  1. Kristin Says:

    It’s hard to make a call in someone else’s hometown. I like the bright colors and unless they pass a resolution publishing a list of “approved colors,” monitored by a board (or the city council), I don’t know how they can get away with it.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Faribault’s Heritage Preservation Commission did present a resolution to the City Council that would require a “certificate of appropriateness” related to exterior painting, etc. in the historic district. (See my March 4 post.)

      The Council is pondering that recommendation. If I recall correctly, the city already has guidelines that prohibit owners of downtown historic brick buildings from painting the brick. I agree with that guideline.

      This really is a difficult issue to address. I think that given the changing demographics of Faribault (with many minorities now living here), cultural differences need to be considered.

      Thus far, the two buildings targeted for new paint jobs house businesses owned by minorities. I’m not trying to make this into an issue of color or culture, but it’s interesting.

  2. Lori Ryer Says:

    I think that Fairbault is quite fortunate if the color scheme of a particular business warrants all of this attention. As for many small towns that I am familiar with we would be just tickled “pink” to have the business on our nearly empty main streets.

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