With hopes surrounding a beautified downtown, improved housing and walking and biking paths, Ellsworth and area residents brainstormed the community's future at the Design Ellsworth event on Oct. 19.

Event organizers met about 200 attendees armed with paper, pencils, pens and markers to get answers to questions such as, "Ten years from now, what's one thing about Ellsworth you hope to brag about?" and "What should be Ellsworth's next great community space?" The Design Ellsworth event, through the University Extension's Community Vitality and Placemaking team, helps communities develop their future from a city planning standpoint.

"It [gave] the momentum to drive growth," said Meghan Quinn Kummer, a member of the business team the group met with and co-owner of Quinn Motors of Ellsworth. "Now is when the hard work starts."

On Oct. 20, the team of volunteers came together for an all-day design session, and by the end of the day presented an idea of what Ellsworth could look like in the future. Resulting ideas from the three-day program included a new community center, re-developing the junior high site into a housing development and new businesses like a brew pub and a family restaurant.

Area residents gave the Herald their thoughts on what they want to see in the future of Ellsworth on Oct. 19, with many pointing to business improvements and aesthetic improvements in the area.

Peggy Nelson, village clerk, said she wanted to see improvements to Ellsworth's main street buildings and improved businesses like a family restaurant.

"I'm just excited to see what the outcome of this is," Nelson said.

Steve Ottman, Ellsworth Farmers Market manager, said he wants to see a new coffee shop opening in the community. He said a coffee shop with a drive through would help it succeed compared to others in the past.

Other attendees were more general in their wants, and curious to see how the event would unfold.

John and Emily Freyholtz said they heard about the event through work and attended out of curiosity. However, they both said improved walking throughout downtown would be good.

Quinn Kummer said that she felt the community was focused on improving the community, but maintaining its small town feel.

The three-day program involved team members staying with community members for the weekend, along with meeting with various groups of business owners, village leaders and residents. The output - a selection of sketches, maps and plans - and process is designed to help communities think about their future in an accessible manner, program lead Todd Johnson said.