Bismarck, ND

Bismark, ND Reaches the 'Final Four' in the Strong Towns Competition

Tree Langdon

Every year, Strong Towns hosts their annual Strongest Towns Competition across the US and Canada.

Street Art by Nick, Photoarchive on Pixabay

The Strongest Town Contest spreads the word about this movement and celebrates communities that are actively doing the hard work of becoming stronger. It’s a healthy competition, encouraging communities as they respond to local challenges and make changes with creativity, intelligence, humility, and courage.

Right now, the competition is in its semi-finals, down to the final four.

The two matchups that are in the final four are:

Bentonville, AR vs. Oxford, MS and Lockport, IL vs. Bismarck, ND

The competition started with 16 towns and cities in competition.

  • At the first stage, competitors answered questions about their strategies around transportation and housing, economic development, and the community response to the pandemic.
  • In Round 2, the eight remaining competitors provided a photographic tour of the things they are doing to get stronger and more resilient.

The Final Four - March 30-April 2

For the Semi-Final round, representatives from each remaining city met for a short interview with the Strong Towns program director and the host of our Bottom-Up Revolution podcast, Rachel Quednau.

The interviews provide insights into how these local reps are working on familiar issues with creativity using the Strong Towns principles. Each of the final four will make the case for why their town is the strongest town.

Bismark ND is a city with a history of excellence.

It's been the capital city of North Dakota since the creation of the State and was named in honor of German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck.

It was named in an attempt to encourage German settlers to move to the city.

One historical building of note is the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, a beautiful church in the Art Deco style. Its tower is the main landmark in the city and the ten stained-glass windows reflect on the Holy Spirit throughout history.

It's a mid-size city that wants to encourage people to come and settle down there, making room for their families to live and grow.

Rachel Quednau, of the Bottom-Up Revolution podcast, interviewed representatives from Bismark ND.

When asked how Bismark ND has been meeting the challenges during the last year, Daniel Nairn (Senior Planner for the City of Bismarck) and Dawn Kopp (CEO of Bismarck's Downtowners Association) both expressed their confidence in the ability of the city to continue to meet the needs of its members during covid.

Dawn noted the improvements in housing.

Market rate or attainable housing has been one focus of their Strong Towns initiative, adding around 200 housing units to the inventory of the city by summer, early fall.

They put programmed housing into historical buildings, to begin with, and are now able to celebrate the large volume in play.

Daniel is proud of the redevelopment plan that Bismark is looking at, managing growth and encourage neighborhoods, looking at constraints and opportunities identified by groups in the communities.

One main area was adjusting parking as needed and empowering staff to make decisions as they see fit.

Inspired by Strong Towns, we created a model that evaluates the fiscal impacts of proposals. Looking at assumptions for costs, we created a model that is now available to others who are interested in working on a model for their own city.

In the future, we'd like to take a softer side, looking at amenities such as cultural activities or welcoming amenities that relate to a specific group of citizens.

Art Alley is one of those endeavors.

What began as an art project to enliven alley space in our community, Alley 5.5 ended up turning into an outdoor gallery of art and a fun destination for locals. It's located on 5th Street halfway between Broadway and Main Avenues in downtown Bismarck.

Making connections with the students at our universities can help keep them here after they graduate. Making connections here may help them make their lives here.

This helps with the brain drain that can occur in small communities.

We're seeing a real out-migration, and it's something we've been trying to focus on. We want to keep people interested in living here, and that includes making it somewhere people love.

Theater, family-oriented activities and recreational events are all areas they are focusing on to encourage both new members and university students to connect with each other here.

"People are excited to see what Bismark ND is doing, working with the local colleges and universities to make closer connections with the community as a whole." Dawn Kopp

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I love to connect humanity to technology. I write news, and fiction, exploring Worldview plots. Was a CGA/CPA in a past life. I have a lot of life experience. Parenting, Art, Finance, Investing, Auditing, Project Management, Writing, Story Grid Method, Science, Forensic Anthropology, Extensive overseas travel including Asia, Greece, Thailand.

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