Traffic up in Clintonville, but folks aren’t stopping

Downtown faces problems competing with more urban areas

Grace Kirchner Leader Correspondent

An open house was held Thursday at the Clintonville Community Center as Andrew Dane, urban planning consultant with Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. revealed Clintonville’s downtown revitalization market analysis summary.

The summary revealed Clintonville is experiencing the population loss and competitive pressures from larger communities that are typical of cities like Clintonville in Wisconsin and beyond.

The businesses here are drawing most of their customers from Clintonville, Marion, Bear Creek and Tigerton.

“You have a significant big number of traffic going through here. You need to find ways to get more of them stopping here,” said Dane.

He compared the traffic numbers similar to some streets in Appleton.

The area is experiencing a population loss, but the average age is increasing.

“But there are things we can do to change that and keep younger people here,” said City Administrator Sharon Eveland.

Even though the population is shrinking, there will still be demand for housing as people move in and out of the area, or move from one housing type to another.

The majority of home buyers in the market are 25 to 54 years old, prefer a detached home, and about half can afford to spend more than $200,000.

An estimated 662 people are in the market to rent. About 20 percent can afford no more than $600 per month, but 40 percent can afford more than $1,200.

Dane said Clintonville is not likely to attract chain stores. Businesses attracted to downtown will be locally owned. The greatest opportunity to increase sales and to meet shopping, dining, and service needs, will be to work with existing businesses or start ups to help them become more competitive, marketing more effectively, improving quality, expanding selection and better meeting the needs of the customers.

Residents of the trade area generate about $110 million in annual spending on retail goods and businesses in downtown. Clintonville captures about 6 percent of it.

Trade area residents spend just under $15 million dining out each year. Downtown restaurants are believed to capture about 20 percent of that potential market.

“People would like more restaurants, fast food, and more opportunities for eating as more and more do less cooking,” said Dane.

Key issues revealed by the study are historic buildings and vacancies, Pigeon River/Olen Park, housing, arts, culture, events, youth programs, fiscal sustainability, image and marketing, organizational capacity, and business mix.

“You have an attractive Main Street with a lot to work with; however, you do have challenges, too, like the armory block and the Merc. You do have hidden gems like the Pioneer Park and Olen Park,” said Dane, adding that many communities would like to have the river.

Vision and goals include providing easily accessible clean, safe, attractive, and welcoming downtown; supporting downtown businesses, organizations, residents, and property owners; providing resources to support downtown business and property owners and enhance public infrastructures, historic buildings, parks and the Pigeon Riverwalk; creating a stronger identity for downtown; expanding housing opportunities; positioning downtown Clintonville as a preferred destination; and developing an organizational framework and fund mechanism to support the plan implementation.

A conceptual plan for an enhanced Pigeon River Walkway was presented with an open-covered structure for a farmers market and more.

The next steps for the plan include additional redevelopment planning this month, finalizing the draft plan in March, meeting with Redevelopment Authority, and taking the plan to the Common Council for plan adoption at its April meeting.

Eveland encourages citizens to get involved. Volunteers are needed. She encourages cooperation with the businesses to make changes.