Winner to receive up to $5,000 to improve space
MADISON, WI. MARCH 2, 2022– Three communities have the chance to transform underused spaces – an alleyway, a small forgotten park and a parking lot – into vibrant spaces that enhance the community in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC) inaugural Place-Makeover Contest.
“This is a chance for Wisconsin’s Main Street communities to take an area of downtown that is unattractive and not used well, and turn it into something that will help draw residents and visitors downtown,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “The improvements being made don’t require huge investments. But those dollars and the changes made can pay off for our communities.”
Building on the success of WEDC’s Main Street Makeover and Mini Makeover that have helped transform 10 downtown businesses, the state’s 34 Wisconsin Main Street communities had the opportunity to nominate an unattractive or underused space in their community that could use an update. Spaces could be privately or publicly owned if they are highly visible in the downtown and open to the public.
The winning community’s space will receive specialized technical assistance and up to $5,000 to make recommended improvements.
Nominees included a wide variety of alleyways, parking lots, vacant lots, and other spaces that are not contributing to the vibrancy of downtown. Finalists were selected based on the space size, visibility and suitability, the district or owner commitment to the project and the potential for the makeover to have a positive impact on the Main Street district.
The finalists are:
North Main Alley, Lake Mills: This privately-owned alley currently serves no purpose. With a recent street reconstruction, the alley could be used to connect a rear parking lot with Main Street, creating a potential pedestrian connection for customers visiting downtown businesses. Long-term, this will require easements and relocation of utilities, but this makeover contest presents an opportunity for the community to start to envision what the space could look like and how it could function to benefit the downtown district in the future.
Farmers’ Market Parking Lot, Prairie du Chien: The parking lot, located at a prominent corner location in downtown, is jointly owned by the adjacent businesses. However, changes in these businesses have reduced parking demand, so the lot is underused. Due to its prominent location, it is regularly used for downtown events including the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market, Sidewalk Sales, and other activities. However, the space is still just a parking lot, and lacks any amenities to make it an attractive or functional event location. The potential to add color, plants or other amenities would create a more welcoming space for visitors with or without programming present, accommodate new and different events, and increase the success of the growing farmers’ market.
Crosswalk Park, Racine: Crosswalk Park is an underused public space that provides a pedestrian connection between Main Street and a public parking ramp. Most visitors don’t realize that this connection exists, and as a result the space is not well used. The size and location of the space have the potential to serve as an actual gathering place in the downtown, giving it a purpose and making it safer and more attractive for those using it as a pedestrian connection. This project comes in advance of the city’s efforts to take ownership of the street from the state, and the park has been identified as a potential location for a mid-block crossing of Main Street, making the space relevant for the future.
The winner will be announced in mid-March. The winning community’s Main Street staff will spend several months working with WEDC staff and consultants from All Together Studio, an Evanston, Illinois-based placemaking firm, on a renovation plan, followed by a two-day transformation in early summer.
The new downtown space will be formally unveiled during a public celebration featuring state and local officials. All eligible community spaces submitted for the competition will receive technical assistance from WEDC’s Main Street team to help achieve their goals and improve their downtowns.
New this year, the Place-Makeover Contest is an initiative of the Wisconsin Main Street Program, a comprehensive revitalization program overseen by WEDC and designed to promote the historic and economic redevelopment of traditional business districts in Wisconsin.
Communities selected to join the prestigious program receive the technical support and training needed to restore their Main Streets to centers of community activity and commerce. The Wisconsin Main Street Program, part of a nationwide program of the National Main Street Center, has been recognized nationally for its participation, initiatives and outcomes.
For more information on the Wisconsin Main Street Program, visit wedc.org/MainStreet.