Beaver Dam City Council members saw a new vision of downtown Monday night as landscape architect and native son Matt Wieneke presented a video tour.
The presentation was part of a Downtown Redevelopment Plan presented by Mayor Becky Glewen to the council and a group of downtown investors and supporters.
Glewen and community members have been working with urban architect Zach Benedict, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, to plan downtown’s future. According to Glewen, the overriding goal is to attract people to the community to meet the needs of the future. It is also part of a statewide initiative to fill the huge gap in talent needed to sustain industrial and community growth.
Glewen handed out packets of materials in which the writers highlighted the ways in which quality of place and community assets attract talent. She quoted Lou Glazer of Michigan Future, who wrote, “Place matters. The quality of place is key to attracting the talent that is essential to successful enterprises and local economies.”
And while economy has always been cited as the reason for why things are the way they are, Glewen believes that making things better will pay for itself. She suggested that Beaver Dam can be much more than it is by emphasizing the things it already has, and capitalizing on its existing assets. She added that packaging and marketing those assets makes a huge difference in how the city is perceived by those who may want to move here, to work here and to establish a business here.
“We broke it down into what we had control over or might have control over in the future, and what things are moving and changing in the community,” Glewen said. “We talked about zones including the Front Street corridor, the Spring Street village, the river section, the riverfront arts district and possibly some downtown housing.”
Priorities were established including the entrance to Front Street near Annabelle’s Ice Cream and South Spring Street. Phase two includes the riverfront and the Steinkraus property south of Ryan Cantafio’s Way between Madison Street and South Center Street. Projects would include beautifying planting areas, revitalizing buildings and enhancing the back sides of buildings facing the riverfront. Those rear facades are exposed following the demolition of buildings that straddled and/or obstructed the river’s flow. Seven years ago, those obstructions (including 11 buildings and culverts that concealed the river) were removed, revealing a view that had not been seen since the early 1900s.
“In looking at some of these street corridors, we talked about façade improvement and street trees,” Glewen said. “We looked at lighting, ease of walking and crossing streets, and what a store looked like — before and what it could look like after.”
Wieneke took it from there with a video tour showing improved and accessible green spaces, arched openings into the Spring Street Village and onto the Front Street area, water features, sculptures, a patio on the Rogers Cinema/city park property with a patio in the shape of a beaver’s tail and the body in the shape of a connecting mound, flower beds in green spaces and hanging banners and flower baskets from light poles.
Future sessions will help determine how to implement and fund the proposed improvements.