Waupaca residents, businesses help plan downtown
By Angie Landsverk
A vacant storefront in downtown Waupaca turned into a design studio last week.
On June 21 and 22, people wandered in and out of the space at 215 N. Main St. to provide input about the city’s plan to redevelop Main Street.
While the design studio took place from 5-7 p.m. on both days, some people stopped in during the day as well, said Cory Scott, a partner and urban planner at RDG Planning & Design.
“They asked how things are coming along,” he said.
RDG, of Des Moines, Iowa, is the consultant hired by the city to develop a downton vision and redevelopment plan as the city prepares for the future reconstruction of Main Street.
The infrastructure is more than 100 years old, and the earliest construction could begin is 2018.
Those who visited last week’s design studio were able to comment on a variety of visuals which could be incorporated into the city’s plan.
Scott said people reacted favorably to the ideas of bumpouts, landscaping, a splash pad, outdoor dining, benches, murals, artwork, art street signs, farm and art markets, develpment on the back side of downtown buildings and a gateway design.
He also said there were comments about reactivating the north end of Main Street.
“A project like this can be a stimulus to encourage investment and fill in all the spaces,” Scott said.
He also addressed two rumors circulating in the community.
One rumor is parallel parking will replace the current angle parking on Main Street.
Scott said no decision has been made regarding parking.
The city and its consultants are having conversations with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation about the topic and will continue to be transparent about the subject.
Scott said they are trying to have as many dialogues as possible about downtown parking.
The second rumor is the city’s plan will include a pedestrian mall.
“Doing pedestrian malls was popular in the ‘70s,” he said. “But, there have been challenges to those businesses. They don’t have parking. We are not in favor of a pedestrian mall. It is not good for businesses.”
Scott also explained the planning process moving forward.
During the next three to four months, the consultants will continue to refine the plan and have more discussions with the city’s steering committee.
The tentative schedule includes having another public meeting in September.
“We’re trying to be as transparent as possible,” Scott said, noting it is the community’s plan, not the consultant’s plan.
He said details are important as they work on the plan and that overall, they are hearing a lot of positive feedback.
Brennan Kane, Waupaca’s development director, said there was a steady flow of traffic in and out of the design studio on both days.
“The one-on-ones are always good,” he said. “We have also provided opportunities for business owners to stop in and give their opinions.”
Kane said the space was open during Strawberry Fest.
People were invited to stop in and give feedback.
“We had 85 people stop here,” Kane said. “We had some high school students come in as well.”
Prior to the end of the school year, input from that generation was also sought during a visit to Waupaca High School, where Kane and Scott met with student council members.
“We let them lead the conversation,” Kane said. “It was great to see that continue during Strawberry Fest with high school students and young adults.”
He said the city wants to attract families and youth to the community.
“The project is not just about enhancing Main Street but about creating a destination, a place where families want to live,” Kane said.
Kareene Hansen was among those who visited the design studio.
The middle school social studies teacher moved to the Waupaca area about four years ago after living in the city of Milwaukee, where she was a teacher and her husband was a police officer.
“I’m curious about what the city is looking to do,” she said.
Kane said the city’s consultants will be back in July and August, and he encourages people to visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/surveywaupaca to participate in a visual preference survey related to the downtown project.
Residents may also visit www.planwaupaca.com to follow the progress of the overall planning effort.