Downtown plaza concept gains traction

Design could include splash pad

Leader Photo by Tim Ryan A slideshow presentation Wednesday at City Hall includes an illustration showing one possible design for a proposed downtown plaza.

Leader Photo by Tim Ryan Shawano Clerk Karla Duchac announces the results of voting by individual boards and commissions in support of pursuing a downtown plaza concept at a special Common Council meeting Wednesday.

City officials Wednesday unveiled a vision of a downtown plaza that would connect Main Street with Franklin Park, and possibly include the splash pad previously intended for Memorial Park.

The concept arose from a recent presentation given by Roger Brooks, chief executive officer for 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 Shawano Common Council held a special meeting Wednesday to present the idea and get input from a host of committees and commissions, including the plan commission, park and recreation commission, park builders board, business improvement district board, downtown business association, redevelopment authority, industrial and commercial development committee, farmers market board and chamber of commerce board.

Each of those entities held separate votes on the concept after the presentation.

All supported the downtown plaza concept, but several were against the idea of incorporating the splash pad.

The Common Council did not vote on the issue, but will do so at a future meeting once the committee opinions are taken into consideration and city officials have a chance to hear feedback from the public.

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.

Voters in April overwhelmingly approved a 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.

City officials said Wednesday the splash pad costs, or about $400,000, could be shifted to the proposed plaza because the referendum never specifically stated the pad would be located at Memorial Park. It was, however, repeatedly stated it would go there at public informational meetings.

The rest of the plaza cost, without the splash pad expense, would come to roughly $1.6 million, which City Administrator Brian Knapp said could be covered by the creation of an additional Tax Incremental Finance District.

Under TIF financing, any increase in revenue over what’s currently being received in the district’s tax base would go toward paying off the debt.