After a historic paper mill in downtown Neenah closed in 2006, the 16-acre site was in danger of becoming an eyesore that lowered property values and hindered economic development.

Created by a public-private partnership in 1990, Downtown Mainstreet Inc. of La Crosse spearheaded the creation of the city's first comprehensive master plan for its downtown in order to address perceived economic deterioration of the city’s historic district. Today, La Crosse is one of the largest National Register Commercial Historic Districts in Wisconsin, containing 96 contributing buildings. Early preservation efforts led to the completion of a $2.9 million river levee project to protect downtown from Mississippi River flooding. In addition to serving a critical purpose, the project features a riverwalk, recreational boat docking facility, wayfinding signage and downtown streetscaping initiatives. In its first 12 years as a program, downtown gained 170 new residential units. More than 100 building and storefront façade restorations have been undertaken, resulting in an increase of $40 million in assessed property values. With the recruitment of major high-tech corporations such as Firstlogic and CenturyTel's Midwest regional headquarters, employment is now at an all-time high, even surpassing employment at the height of the prosperous retail years. Today, downtown La Crosse is known for its arts scene (including a strong public art program and state-of-the-art Weber Center for the Performing Arts), as well as a commitment to downtown residential development (the Tour of Upper Living regularly sells out). Last year the downtown welcomed $12 million in private investment. This pales in comparison to the $191 million in projects currently under way, which are expected to add nearly 400 new hotel rooms, 246 residential units, and 145,000 new square feet of commercial space and generate more than $22 million in additional consumer activity.

The Broadway District sits on the west bank of the Fox River in Green Bay. As a riverfront location, the area has long been a center of commerce, whether for the fur trade, lumber, paper or, today, as a hive for small businesses and entrepreneurs. However, this transition was not without difficulty, as the 1980s saw the district become a high-crime area defined by disrepair and vacancy. In 1995, a group of persistent local merchants, neighbors and community leaders launched a Main Street organization to reclaim the street. Some early triumphs included a new streetscape, a partnership with local police, and creation of a supportive small business and live-work environment. As of 2009, the district had already achieved success, with the renovation of 91 properties and development of four new infill projects. Progress has continued since that time, with the addition of new residential opportunities and further reduction in storefront vacancies. The most notable change is the conversion of a former train depot and later an adjacent vegetable processing facility into the Titletown Brewery, restaurant, tap room and event center. Over its entire tenure, the district has had a net gain of 171 new businesses that employ more than 1,600 individuals, and has attracted just shy of $69 million in private investment to improve 167 buildings. With 45 statewide awards, the district is the ‘winningest’ community in the state, and is well-known for innovative adaptive reuse projects and regionally significant marketing and event initiatives that bring thousands to shop, dine and stroll during annual events such as the Winter Wine Walk and Wednesday and Saturday farmers’ markets.

When fashion is your business, your business should look fashionable and functional.

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