Open house set for April 24
By Angie Landsverk
The redevelopment plan for Waupaca’s downtown will be unveiled on Monday, April 24, during an open house at Danes Hall.
The open house will be held from 4-7 p.m. and will include a 5 p.m. presentation by RDG Planning & Design, the city’s consultant on the project.
The public is invited to attend.
“The purpose (of the open house) is to get public input on the plan. Then we will finalize the plan, which will be presented to the city for adoption,” said Brennan Kane, the city’s director of community and economic development.
The April 24 open house will be followed by gallery hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, also at Danes Hall.
People will be able to stop by during those hours and discuss the plan with the city’s staff and consultants, Kane said.
That evening, there will be a workshop at Danes Hall for the Waupaca Common Council.
Kane said the workshop is intended to be a one-on-one with the council.
“No decisions will be made that night,” he said.
The workshop will allow the Koehler family, the new owners of Danes Hall, to introduce themselves to the council, Kane said.
When Main Street is reconstructed, the city intends to shift North Main a bit to the east to realign it with Water Street.
Kane said doing so will provide a safer and more pedestrian friendly intersection.
It will also result in an opportunity for the Koehler family to develop an plaza outside their building.
The April 25 council workshop will include city staff and the consultants laying out the next three to four years of capital projects associated with Main Street and the downtown area, Kane said.
He said the council needs to provide guidance on funding levels to put toward Main Street.
The reconstruction of Main Street, from Badger to Water streets, is scheduled to begin in 2021.
The infrastructure is more than 100 years old.
In 2018, the city plans to reconstruct the parking lot behind City Hall and the public library.
Kane said the reconstruction of the parking lot will include a landscape redesign for the lawn in front of City Hall and the library.
While City Hall and the library do not front Main Street, the city’s landscaped lawn does, he said.
The city wants that area to align with the vision of the downtown plan and provide a better front door to City Hall and the library, Kane said.
“The other piece we will look at will be presenting an idea to update the park plan for Rotary Riverview Park,” he said.
That is because throughout the city’s planning process, there has been a collective vision to re-engage the Waupaca River into the city’s overall downtown feeling, Kane said.
The river came up during the city’s downtown visioning process.
That process began in early 2014, when Mayor Brian Smith recommended appointments to the city’s new Concept Planning Committee.
The committee worked with East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to develop a concept plan.
In March 2016, the city hired RDG, of Des Moines, Iowa, to develop a downtown vision and redevelopment plan as the city prepares for the reconstruction of Main Street.
Kane said the river was brought up during that planning process as well, including at last June’s design studio.
The design studio allowed people to comment on a variety of visuals that could be incorporated into the city’s plan.
Kane said some of the “design concepts for Main Street are coming from the river.”
As the city prepares to unveil the downtown redesign – and the streetscape and parking that are part of it – another planning process is underway.
On April 11, about 50 people attended an arts and culture planning meeting at Danes Hall.
“It’s a continuation of last year’s arts summit,” Kane said.
Since that summit, there have been conversations about integrating arts more into the community and into the downtown development plan, he said.
The idea is not just about doing so in Waupaca, but in the region, Kane said.
“I’ve seen a lot of headway over the last year with the arts organizations,” he said.
Anne Katz, executive director of Arts Wisconsin, and Megan Matthews, coordinator of the Arts Management Program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, facilitated last week’s meeting.
Matthews said the top three skills employers will be looking for in 2020 are critical thinking, creativity and complex problem solving.
“That’s why I get excited about this,” she said.
An economy based on being creative is “the economy we live in now,” Katz said.
She said the arts are essential to economic vitality, regardless of a community’s size.
Those who attended last week’s meeting began the process of developing an arts and cultural action plan for the community.
“We will be working on the process over the next couple of months,” Katz said.
Kane said a steering committee will be created to represent the different arts groups and activities in the area.
The plan also includes having focus groups.
Kane said this planning process will work in tandem with the other efforts taking place in the city.
“The plan is only as good as the participation,” Katz said.