Lt. gov. Flanagan praises net-zero project at WSU, talks child care during Winona visit

Two of Winona’s infrastructure projects and access to child care were your focuses of a visit Thursday from Lt. gov. Peggy Flanagan as she made stops at three different locations in the city of Winona.

One of the projects focused on was Winona State University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Engagement & Learning.

The university received $4.87 million in state funding for the project in May, which will fund the design process for the building.

The university plans to request $71.79 million in May to complete the center’s construction, which is expected to conclude in the fall of 2027.


Lt. gov. Peggy Flanagan speaks Thursday with Winona mayor Scott Sherman at Levee Park about the Riverfront Trail.

Rachel Mergen, River Valley Media Group

The goal of the project is to create the Minnesota State’s first carbon neutral and net zero energy building system.

The 73,000-square-foot building, along with new greenspace, will take the place of two older, outdated structures on the campus — Gildemeister and Watkins — which were opened in 1964 and have not had any major renovations since.

The building will be the home of three of the university’s departments: Art & Design, Computer Science and Mathematics & Statistics.

The modern facility is expected to decrease annual operational costs by 50% compared to the current buildings, while also reducing building life cycle costs by $24 million compared to the old buildings and campus maintenance backlog by $11 million.

The university expects to see a return on the investment in 10 years.

Flanagan toured Watkins and Gildemeister on Thursday, firsthand seeing and hearing about the limitations of the older buildings, such as limited collaborative space and small desks that do not have enough space to set a laptop and books during classes.


Flanagan tests out a small, old desks at Winona State University while touring Watkins and Gildemeister halls.

Rachel Mergen, River Valley Media Group

Flanagan said the project is “a recruitment and retention tool for students.”

She said it is exciting to focus on net-zero energy and lowering the university’s carbon footprint, and that the building offers an opportunity for students to learn about those topics while also taking classes in a facility that suits their needs.

Riverfront Trail

The city’s Riverfront Trail from Levee Park to Lions Park, which received $5 million in state funding in May, was the second infrastructure project focused on Thursday.

The funds are set to go toward the final design, engineering and construction of a bridge and its approaches that will connect the trail from Chestnut Street to Carimona Street, covering the area where the Winona Marina is.

The Riverfront Trail is expected to allow bikers and people on foot the opportunity to enjoy the view of the Mississippi River and have access to a path to different areas of Winona and beyond.

City leaders Thursday shared with Flanagan about the importance of the trail to the community and the benefits it brings in helping draw in people and businesses to the city, especially in the downtown area.


Flanagan also stopped by Main Square Montessori on Thursday to discuss moves made by state government to support both families with young children and child care providers.

Some of the actions include the creation of a child tax credit, which Flanagan said will help cut the state’s child poverty by at least 33%. The credit gives up to $1,750 per child to lower income families.

A bill was also recently passed to provide funding to help more families access affordable child care, while also supporting providers as they work to attract and retain employees.

The legislature invested more into the state’s Child Care Assistance Program.

Flanagan said she and Gov. Tim Walz made it a priority to make “Minnesota the best state in the country to raise a child.”

“The work that we do around child care is a really important piece of that puzzle,” she said.

Flanagan also took time to chat with and read to the children present at Main Square Montessori and heard a song that they had prepared to sing for her.


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