New look for downtown
Main Street plan unveiled
By Angie Landsverk
The proposed redesign of Waupaca’s Main Street celebrates the city’s past, natural resources and industry.
Suspended lighting recalls what the street historically looked like.
A wave worked into the sidewalks flows like the nearby Waupaca River and leads to other connections in the downtown district.
Gears are the focal point in the intersection of Main and Fulton streets, representing Waupaca Foundry.
“This is really about creating a vision and destination for downtown Waupaca and about growth and development downtown,” said Brennan Kane, the city’s director of community and economic development.
He made the comment Monday, April 24 at Danes Hall as the draft redevelopment plan for downtown was unveiled to the community.
Reconstruction of Main Street, from Badger to Water streets, is scheduled to begin in 2021.
Infrastructure under the street is more than 100 years old.
The redevelopment plan for Main Street is the work of RDG Planning & Design.
“It’s a project for the whole community,” said Cory Scott, a partner in the firm.
The design process included numerous meetings and opportunities for public comment.
Scott said throughout the discussion, five themes emerged at the top.
They were to build memories, stimulate private investment, create a chain reaction, celebrate the natural environment and attract new customers.
When the city’s consultant looked at historic photos of Main Street, the firm looked for patterns in the old streetscape.
“There was something going on above and something going on below, and this building (Danes Hall) was the focal point,” Scott said.
Above the street hung suspended lights.
Trolley cars went down the street.
He said the plan builds around those memories.
“The idea is to make it a district, so if you park anywhere in the district, you’ve arrived,” Scott said.
He said the project is also not just about Main Street, but about redevelopment and reuse throughout the downtown area.
There are a number of opportunities for that, Scott said.
While Main Street is the principal corridor, the plan seeks to make connections to its side neighborhoods.
He said the Waupaca River is currently a hidden asset, and the idea is to connect Main Street to the river.
The plan includes turning Session Street into a one-way street, from Washington to Main streets.
Doing so would make a grand entrance to the river, said Ryan Peterson, a partner and landscape architect at RDG.
Scott said a sense of arrival may be created throughout downtown with vertical and horizontal structures.
It would say “Waupaca” on the horizontal structures.
The vertical elements could be made out of metal and sponsored by businesses, organizations or individuals.
The design also includes bumpouts, greenspace and planters to create a pedestrian-friendly streetscape.
Peterson said bumpouts play a major role in slowing down traffic.
The plan also includes shifting North Main Street a bit to the east to realign it with Water Street.
“We’re really trying to calm traffic and put people first,” he said.
Development of a plaza is proposed near Granite Street to attract people to the north end of Main Street.
Peterson said the proposed design for downtown includes layers to make people pause and want to get out of their cars.
The gears in the pavement at the intersection of Main and Fulton streets are one such example.
“It’s something you won’t forget,” Peterson said.
He sees the design for Main Street as celebrating Waupaca’s past and present.
“You get the feeling of being in a space,” Peterson said. “And then you add greenspace to provide color and re-energize downtown.”
Scott said the design makes downtown more walkable, festive and comfortable.
The consultants also want to help the city attract more customers, see new businesses open and make people want to spend the entire day in the community.
The city is waiting to learn if the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will grant the design exceptions the city requested to maintain as much front-in angle parking as possible.
The public comments from this week’s open house will be used to finalize Main Street’s redevelopment plan, which will need to be adopted by the city.
The Waupaca Common Council will also need to decide on a funding level for the project.
RDG provided three potential funding levels to the city: $4.8 million, $5.3 million and $5.8 million.
Each of those levels would cover all new paving, sewer and utility services to the buildings, Peterson said.
The lowest funding level would include basic streetscape amenities. The other two levels would include more placemaking ideas.
Ald. Scott Purchatzke was among the council members who attended the April 24 open house.
“The concepts are beautiful. There will be more fine-tuning, removals or additions,” he said. “It will make it so beautiful that people want to come downtown and want to establish their business downtown.”