Work begins in crafting a new vision for downtown

Citizen Steering Committee holds first meeting

Efforts to create a new vision, marketing plan and implementation strategy for Shawano’s downtown kicked off Monday with the first meeting of the Downtown Redevelopment Citizen’s Steering Committee.

The project will be overseen by Madison-based planning consultant Vierbacher, which was hired by the Shawano Redevelopment Authority, but will largely depend on citizen input.

The plan 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.

Monday’s meeting was mostly organizational, and a chairman for the eight-member citizen panel won’t be chosen until the committee’s next meeting.

Dan Lindstrom of Vierbacher laid out some of the goals the committee and the RDA will be striving for over the next several months.

Lindstrom said existing downtown plans are 15-20 years old, and a new vision was needed to reflect the changing market.

“As the market changes, so should viewpoints,” he said.

Lindstrom said the committee would ultimately recommend a plan with a unifying downtown theme and realistic implementation strategies, based mostly on community input.

“We want to make sure this is community driven,” he said. “The plan is a citizen vision, but everything we do is based in market realities.”

The timeline calls for a plan to be put together by February or March.

Committee member Charlie Harvey said he hoped the process would not be rushed.

“This is a big deal,” he said. “It should take some good thought to get it right.”

Harvey said a plan was needed that would supplement the tourism that benefits the local economy.

“We’re lucky with our tourist season,” he said, “but we have to create something that can be viable here all year long. Tourism is our frosting, but our local people are the cake.”

Assistant City Administrator Eddie Sheppard, who provides staff support for the RDA and the steering committee, said adequate time will be taken to get the plan right.

“The RDA has identified this as a very key priority,” he said. “We’ve got to get this right and we’re going to take the time necessary to get it right. This isn’t just an activity. This is intended to drive the design of what we want our downtown to be.”

The committee will begin soliciting community input at a public open house in the second week of November. A specific date had not yet been set.