Visions emerging for downtown, no firm plans yet

Second open house on redevelopment nets higher public interest

Turnout was much better Wednesday for the city’s second open house on crafting a vision for future downtown development.

More than three dozen were confirmed, not including additional late arrivals, more than three times the number who attended the first open house.

Both Mayor Jeanne Cronce and Assistant City Administrator Eddie Sheppard were encouraged by the attendance and positive discussions that came out of Wednesday’s meeting.

The meeting included workshop exercises identifying development projects people would like to see happen downtown.

Sheppard stressed that four redevelopment sites identified at the open house are strictly conceptual at this point.

“There are plans as most of (the sites) are privately held,” Sheppard said. “These are more just to provide visuals of the type of developments that could occur at locations where people have indicated they would really like to see redevelopment.”

The wish list includes a one-story restaurant and parking lot at Main and North Sawyer streets, a three-story commercial and residential building north of Spirit of Shawano Park on North Main Street, additional commercial and residential buildings on West Fifth Street and on Main north of Fifth Street, and five two-story townhouse units on Washington Street north of Presbyterian Street.

None of these would occur unless a developer comes forward willing to take on any of the projects.

Sheppard said the meeting opened people’s eyes about what could be possible for downtown.

“There was some great dialogue,” he said. “It was very positive. People are very excited about the progress.”

One item that appears to have been temporarily shunted to the back burner is the concept of a downtown plaza across Main Street, connecting Main Street to Franklin Park.

Sheppard said the plaza would depend on other things taking place first.

“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said.

At least one more open house is planned, probably in mid-March, but there’s no firm date yet. Meanwhile, the Downtown Redevelopment Citizens Steering Committee will continue to digest the feedback they’ve gotten.

The open house meetings are being hosted by the steering committee, which has been tasked with creating a new vision, marketing plan and implementation strategy for Shawano’s downtown.

The project is being overseen by Madison-based planning consultant Vierbacher, which was hired by the Shawano Redevelopment Authority.

The concept approved by the RDA would include “a new vision and identity for the downtown” that would highlight the area as a pedestrian-friendly destination spot, recommend highest and best uses for downtown properties, seek to preserve historic and community-significant buildings, set standards for site and building design, and develop an implementation plan to help the city achieve its goals.

The committee expects to ultimately recommend a plan with a unifying downtown theme and realistic implementation strategies, based mostly on community input.