Residents Celebrate City’s Past, Present and Future During Market Block Party
I was gratified by the enthusiastic response by area residents to celebrate the past, present, and future of our City during the two-day Market Block Party on Tuesday evening, August 23rd and Wednesday the 24th.
The City and the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce hosted the party to commemorate the clearance and reclamation work on the triangular Market Block bounded by 1st Street North, East Jackson Street and Market Street.
I personally thank the vendors who provided food and beverages for this twin event: Culver’s, J Squared Catering, Jamaican Kitchens, Rocky Rococo, Hawaiian Ice, Klaus Treat and S&S Distributors. Special appreciation also goes to the local entertainers who entertained us with live music: Goats in Trees on Tuesday evening, and Dade Grode on Wednesday.
The Market Block Party allowed us to reflect upon the hopes and dreams for redevelopment and renewal of Downtown Wisconsin Rapids. As I have stated previously, it is our intent to get this property made aware of to developers who will commit to building a multi-story, mixed-use structure that could contain apartments, condos, offices, retail space and restaurants. In this regard, event attendees demonstrated their engagement, by offering numerous ideas and suggestions that will surely be considered as we explore ways to best rebuild this area.
The City purchased the buildings previously occupied by Spath Accounting, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Bring’s and Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar. City crews completed cleaning up the Spath and USDA building by mid-April. Once the former Good Time Charlie’s building has been removed, engineering consultant Robert E. Lee & Associates will perform an environmental assessment. With that due diligence underway, we have just begun the proposal process to select a qualified developer partner for ultimate redevelopment.
- The City of Wisconsin Rapids is seeking statements of qualifications from developers (individuals, firms, or teams) interested in presenting a viable design and development concept For more information in regards to Requests for Qualifications, please click, here.
- The City of Wisconsin Rapids has just finished seeking proposals from qualified firms interested in contracting with the City to provide building demolition services for the removal and cleanup of the City-owned site. For more information in regards the Request for Proposals, please click, here.
As planning/development proceeds, I urge you as community members to continue making your voices heard on what opportunities you see for the site. The future vitality and prosperity of our City lie in the hands of all our citizens.
Council Approval of Outdoor Regional Aquatics Facility Brings City One Step Closer Toward Meeting City’s Recreational Needs
During a special Council session held Monday, August 22, Wisconsin Rapids City Council members voted 7-1 to pursue a regional-scale outdoor aquatics facility at Witter Field. This decision came as a result of extensive consideration by the Council of a YMCA collaborative opportunity for access to their indoor aquatic facility as well as consideration of a municipal-owned and run outdoor facility. Resident participation was high- with interested individuals weighing in via letters, phone calls, emails, social media and participation on my radio show. Many residents expressed interest in realizing both indoor and outdoor options. The council decision to pursue an outdoor facility brings this position closer to reality.
Council Video: https://youtu.be/iwfBy0lZLA0
WR Tribune Coverage: https://goo.gl/6O1mUU
After discussion among Council members, Public Works Director Joe Terry, YMCA CEO Bret Salscheider, citizens in attendance, and myself, the Council ultimately viewed this proposal as one that would provide our residents with predictability, optimal affordability and accessibility in terms of both location and hours of access. Having a City-controlled project also would make more certain an opening in time for the summer 2018 season.
Burbach Aquatic’s general scope proposal estimates that this project would encompass about 57,000 square feet. In addition to the aquatic recreational aspect, the facility would offer enhanced park facilities expanding the use beyond the summer season. A facility such as this would not only to attract residents but visitors from around the region for visits from a few hours, but encouraging extended, overnight visits.
At this point, the investment in a facility of this scale would be a minimum of $5 million, with the exact budget established after City leadership considers more details and designs as the development process goes forward.
In a second vote, Council members unanimously voted in favor of exploring the option to also install splash pads strategically throughout the City.
It was encouraging to see the level of interest this meeting evoked among members of our local community. About 50 residents attended, several of whom were given speaking time by their alderpersons to offer their opinions.
Although the majority of the Council felt that public funding should go to an outdoor facility, I would add that the YMCA vision of a healthy living center is certainly an exciting project. As someone who has lived my entire life in this community, I believe that the financial and human capital exist to make the Y’s project a reality now even with the Council’s decision not to contribute City taxpayer funding. A community of our size has the resources to ensure that indoor and outdoor facilities can coexist and be sustained. I look forward to encouraging and supporting the development where possible.
Alderman Todd Ferkey echoed this view when he advised Bret Salscheider to contact neighboring municipalities, as well as local foundations, to pursue funding options for the realization of the YMCA proposal. As Alderman Ferkey pointed out, having both outdoor and indoor aquatics options would provide a regional attraction that would generate revenue for our local economy, and make Wisconsin Rapids & central Wisconsin a better place to live and raise a family.
As the project-development process progresses on this important effort, I encourage residents to remain engaged and keep City officials aware of any concerns, questions or suggestions. We intend to include resident participation in various aspects of the design process. This is a community endeavor that will become reality only with the full participation of our citizens.
Roundtable discussion takes place with Congressman Kind
City staff and I recently had the opportunity to visit with Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District to talk about issues and challenges that face our community.
Rep. Kind, whose district includes Wisconsin Rapids, is a highly touted conversationalist who also understands that sustainable economic development helps build stronger and more vibrant communities, resulting in a higher quality of life.
During our meeting, we talked about local job growth, the waterfront development project, local infrastructure challenges, changes in the photo identification law in regard to elections and ways to provide early capital for local entrepreneurs to invigorate business.
Director of Public Works Joe Terry shared his vision and suggestions to help maintain and replace local roads, wastewater and other infrastructure in our community. He stated that keeping pace with repairs and replacements of 150 miles of local roads requires more federal funding, as well as a more efficient way to apply for grants to help fund these projects.
We also discussed the need for a highly skilled workforce to help alleviate the shortage of experienced, well-trained workers our community is going to face over the next 10 years.
During my tenure as Mayor, I have valued the importance of meeting with both state and federal leaders such as Rep. Kind, to voice the concerns and aspirations of our community. This exchange of ideas and goals, in turn, can help plant the seeds for progress and revitalization that benefit our community for generations to come.
Incourage Urban Planning Award Emphasizes Tribune Project Value to Downtown Redevelopment
In the midst of so much progress being made being made to revitalize our Downtown area, Incourage has just been honored for its Tribune Building Project with a 2016 American Planning Association (APA) of Wisconsin Award for Urban Design. The award highlights an approved design concept for a new or redeveloped area of unusually high quality.
This recognition is especially gratifying for our City, in that Adam Tegen, Director of Planning & Economic Development, nominated Incourage for the award.
Tribune Building Updates/FAQ can be found here.
The Tribune Building Project was judged on the criteria of originality and innovation; value added to the community; quality of physical form; relationship to the natural environment; and long-term sustainability.
Planners from Michigan and Minnesota reviewed the Tribune project, which one judge praised for its “visionary approach to community engagement and design.” Recognition such as this underscores the importance of the Tribune Building Project in generating enthusiasm and attention, as well as its potential for helping us to transform our Waterfront District.
Incourage will be presented with its award on September 23, during APA Wisconsin’s “Planning for Prosperity” Conference in Appleton.
With more than 2,000 residents thus far having contributed their time, ideas and energy, the Tribune Building Project reflects our community’s priorities to support entrepreneurial activities, local business and increased environmental awareness. Congratulations to Incourage for nurturing this important initiative.
Thanks for reading,
Mayor Zach Vruwink