Council will consider plaza feedback Wednesday

Open house attendees support plaza concept

City officials on Wednesday will vote on a resolution encouraging the Shawano Redevelopment Authority to include a plaza concept in its downtown development plan.

The Common Council’s vote will likely take into consideration feedback gleaned at an open house held earlier this week where residents overwhelmingly supported the idea, but were less certain how it should be financed.

More than 50 people attended Tuesday’s downtown plaza open house, with 31 of them filling out questionnaires on the subject.

“These questionnaires will give city staff and elected officials an idea of how the community feels about the revitalization efforts for the downtown area, including the potential of creating a downtown plaza space,” City Administrator Brian Knapp said.

According to Knapp, an overwhelming majority of those that responded stated that the revitalization of the downtown was very important to them, with 26 of 30 responses rating it as 8 or above on a scale of 1 to 10.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm shown for the plaza idea with a number of concerns for programming and financing and the pace of the plaza decision,” Knapp said.

When asked how a downtown plaza development project should be financed, respondents were evenly split between “substantially public” and “substantially private,” with 12 respondents preferring a mix of public and private funding.

The plaza cost would come to roughly $1.6 million, which Knapp said could be covered by the creation of an additional tax incremental finance district.
Under TIFs, any increase in revenue over what’s currently being received in the district’s tax base would go toward paying off the debt.

The RDA recently approved a contract with consulting firm Vierbicher to gather input and work with stakeholders to create a downtown development plan. If accepted, the plaza concept will be studied and discussed in public meetings and forums over the next several months as the RDA and Vierbicher prepare the plan.

The plaza concept arose from a presentation this summer given by Roger Brooks, CEO of a tourism consulting firm, Roger Brooks International.

The Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce subsequently held meetings with local business owners and community leaders who pushed the plaza idea.

The plaza plan would create multi-use open space on either side of the 200 block of South Main Street that would stretch to Washington Street to hook up with Franklin Park.

City officials say the design and location could change, but as currently envisioned the plaza could make use of the space occupied by a vacant building at 214-216 S. Main St. The redevelopment authority is negotiating with the Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology to acquire that blighted property.

A raised pedestrian crossing would connect it to the rest of the plaza across Main Street, with expectations that traffic along what is also state Highway 22 will slow down.

The plaza space could be used for any variety of activities, including art displays, live entertainment, and food and craft fairs.

The splash pad originally intended for Memorial Park was pitched as a key component of the plan, with the possibility of it becoming an ice skating rink during the winter.

That idea has apparently been dropped after a decision by the park and recreation commission last week to move forward the playground-type splash pad at Memorial that was approved by voters in a nonbinding referendum earlier this year.

Knapp said the plaza would likely still have a water feature, but not a splash pad.

Voters in April overwhelmingly approved the advisory referendum that included a splash pad, advertised as replacing the kiddie pool at Memorial Park, as part of $1.85 million in additional borrowing for development of Franklin and Smalley parks.