Big plans for Main Street
City’s focus on north end of downtown
By Angie Landsverk
The renovation of the Danes Hall could be a catalyst for additional projects on Waupaca’s Main Street.
“Whatever ultimately ends up there will be a huge boost to the downtown,” said Brennan Kane, the city’s community and economic development director.
The city is in the midst of planning the reconstruction and redevelopment of Main Street.
Design exceptions to maintain as much front-in angle parking as possible have been submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
The city hopes to gain insight by late March as to which direction the DOT will go, he said.
“Going through the whole process, we heard from business owners that they want to maintain as much (front-in angle parking) as they can,” Kane said. “We hope the plan submitted is a compromise between the DOT and the business community.”
The request to the DOT was necessary, because the city qualified for $1.4 million in federal funding for the project.
The funding is through the Surface Transportation Urban Program (STP), which the DOT manages.
The DOT has a predisposition toward parallel parking but does allow municipalities to seek exceptions to that design concept.
Reconstruction of Main Street is targeted for 2019 or 2020.
“It’s a DOT-level project. It’s on their timeline,” Kane said.
The city is looking at a 2018 reconstruction of the parking lot behind city hall and the public library.
Kane said the concept came out of last year’s visioning exercise and design studio.
The common council has not yet discussed or approved such a concept.
Kane said the reconstruction of that parking lot would support downtown businesses with added parking.
“Once we hear back from the DOT on what it accepts, we plan to have a couple open houses to unveil the plan. Right now, we are targeting mid-April,” he said.
Kane said a workshop will also be held with the common council to outline the next three years of anticipated projects and their associated design and construction costs.
Also being discussed is more of an emphasis on Rotary Riverview Park and the Waupaca River.
“We want to create a more physical connection between Main Street and the park,” Kane said. “It’s a great asset that we hope to incorporate more into the downtown plan.”
He said while it may appear not a lot is going on now, one of his goals is to create a toolbox of grant opportunities and programs to help interested downtown business owners update their own facades when the city does its project.
“We’re in it, just like every other business owner,” Kane said. “It’s three years away, but we’re starting to plan for it now to help them through the process.”
He said the city is looking at what other communities did when they reconstructed downtown streets.
Other ideas include adding signage and creating more events to bring people downtown.
As the city continues planning for the redevelopment of Main Street, it is seeing an increased interest in downtown and potential opportunities.
Kane said they are trying to figure out if the city’s planning efforts of the past two years are causing more interest from investors, because of the type of place the community wants to create.
“Creating that sense of place and having some historical buildings like the Danes Home offers catalytic projects for what downtown can be,” he said.
The new owners of the Danes Hall met with the city’s consultants to go over their ideas, Kane said.
Terry Martin, the architect the Koehler family selected for its Dane Hall project, is well versed in historic preservation, Kane said.
Kane said what is exciting about the family’s project is that during every discussion related to Main Street, the Danes Hall consistently came up as a critical piece in the plan for downtown.
“I think it’s really cool that we have people tied to the community who want to reinvest in the community,” he said.
Kane believes the project offers the opportunity to support and promote downtown, especially the north end of Main Street.
“We need to get a draw at the north end, to bring people past the corner of Main and Fulton streets,” said Mayor Brian Smith.
Kane said the city is working with the owners of the Danes Hall about how to incorporate their outdoor space into their plans.
He said the city intends to shift North Main Street a bit to the east when it is reconstructed to realign it with Water Street.
“The main focus of doing that,” Kane said, “is improving pedestrian safety. But it will also result in some additional public space that can be used in a variety of ways.”
In addition to the Danes Hall project, downtown saw the opening of Z’ Wolf Eatery earlier this year in the former Waupaca Cafe space, and work is expected to begin soon to renovate the old Edgewood Arts space into Doc Atty’s.
Kane said the city wants to create a downtown environment that promotes entrepreneurship.
Z’ Wolf Eatery is an example of this, he said.