Waupun streetscape plan goes long: Study coordinates improvements 30 years out
WAUPUN — The city of Waupun is planning its long-term future for downtown, hoping that the improvements of today will not become the impediments of tomorrow.
A recent “Streetscape Plan,” compiled by MSA, was approved by the Common Council Jan. 29, with saving money one of its primary concerns. Key to that goal is doing things right the first time and not having to redo them as future generations reconsider what has already been completed.
“It was the culmination of a lot of work that began in 2018,” City Administrator/Directory of Economic Growth Kathy Schlieve said. “A citizen preference survey basically said, ‘Tell us what you think.’ The data was compiled. We worked with our Community Development Authority, and their input was taken as well. It was all compiled in a master plan intended to look out perhaps 30 years.”
Phase 1 includes choosing streetscape elements such as benches, planters, trash receptacles, banners, bike racks, handicapped accessibility, trees and plantings.
“If you went downtown and took pictures, you’d find peach-tinted planters and benches that are cracked and chipped. Some of the ‘End of the Trail’ inserts are missing,” Schlieve said. “That isn’t the image that we want for our community.
“We see this as an opportunity because we have a TIF (Tax Increment Financing District) to fund these kinds of improvements. We also have a BID (Business Improvement District), which provides private grants for façade improvement and other elements. Both of them work together to make positive changes.”
There also may be an opportunity to create a gathering space. The city owns two vacant lots on either side of C&J Rock Shop, 417 E. Main St. The shop is for sale — an opportunity currently being considered.
“We’ve struggled for a long time with where to put the farmers market, or outdoor concerts, or other downtown activities,” Schlieve said. “We’ve partnered with a business to hold the farmers market in their parking lot, but it’s still a challenge.”
Other challenges are being considered as well.
“We have a number of busy highways (including Highways 49 and 26) intersecting in downtown,” Schlieve said. “There’s a lot of traffic and it moves fairly fast. Ideally, we want to be more walkable, and a good place to do things and hang out. We’re looking for interesting elements to encourage that.”
The city is also enlisting seniors at Waupun Area Junior/Senior High School through the Senior Democratic Service class.
“One of our major goals is to increase the voice of youth in the community,” Schlieve said. “We hope that they will be involved in one or more of these projects. They can learn a lot by going through the process, and giving them a voice in solving some of the issues that we’re facing here. Getting them involved in this way will allow them to have a positive impact in their hometown’s decisions.”
Signage is another issue, with significant costs to do it right.
“Why is that important?” Schlieve asked. “One example is that visitors are very confused about where we hold football games in the fall. They know where the high school is, but it’s very difficult to find Veterans Memorial Field (near Rock River Intermediate School). It’s important to be open and welcoming to visitors, and signage is a key part of that.”
Part of the study is transitioning from its best-known brand — City of Sculptures — to promoting its natural surroundings. This is in part to deflect the image of Waupun as “The End of the Trail” — the name of the city’s most famous sculpture.
The plan was completed using downtown TIF funds, recovered through an increased tax base. Work is ongoing to implement the plan, with Schlieve and the Common Council agreeing that it’s money well spent.
“It’s in our best interest it to think about how to work with and better optimize what we have,” Schlieve said. “Now we have a road map to specify things we should always be thinking about as we move forward.”
“It’s in our best interest it to think about how to work with and better optimize what we have. Now we have a road map to specify things we should always be thinking about as we move forward.” <&textAlign: right>Kathy Schlieve, Waupun City Administrator/Director of Economic Growth