Downtown Revitalization Gets A Boost With Agency’s Designation
Antigo’s downtown revitalization received a boost this month, after it was among 20 cities selected by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for the new “Connect Communities” program.
The designation means that the corporation—a state and private entity—will offer assistance to revitalize the city’s core.
“Connect Communities is a lighter version of the already successful Main Street program that doesn’t entail all the red-tape,” Chris Berry of the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation explained. “It was created to assist communities with downtowns and central commercial districts similar to Antigo. This is done through providing local stakeholders the tools to leverage the unique assets of local business districts.”
Also selected were Berlin, Cambridge, Cashton, Chilton, Crandon, Deerfield, Edgerton, Greenwood, Hartford, Hartland, La Crosse, Menasha, Menomonee Falls, Menomonie, Mosinee, Plymouth, Pulaski, Sheboygan and Superior.
Assistance will include staff visits by economic development corporation staffers, possible opportunities to link college/university student projects to the district’s needs, research through the corporation’s downtown development library, plus access to various webinars and conferences associated with the Main Street program.
“Downtowns and urban commercial districts play an important role in their communities and in Wisconsin’s overall economy,” Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, vice president of economic and community development with the state corporation, said. “Successful commercial districts don’t just happen. They need to be planned and nurtured, and the Connect Communities program helps these communities move forward.”
The Connect Communities process was initiated here in November, when 40 plus downtown business owners attended a presentation sponsored by the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
“The excitement that resulted from that presentation was overwhelming,” Berry said.
At that initial planning meeting, 18 business owners came together and formed an “Antigo First” sub-committee devoted to downtown revitalization and development, a necessary requirement of the program. Roseann Hoffman, CPA, was selected as president; Paul Messer, The Silver Lining, vice president; and Rhonda Klement, RaadWear, secretary.
Over the next 10 days, the committee completed and submitted the application to the state corporation.
“This process was really exciting to watch unfold,” Berry said. “All the stakeholders, including the city administrator and city engineer, stepped up and completed and submitted the application two days before it was due.”
Antigo First is already planning upcoming projects and enhancements for the downtown area.