Mayor's Column

Mayor’s Column — Downtown Food Truck Alley and Business Development

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Mayor’s Column June 15, 2024
Rohn Bishop, Mayor of Waupun

Hello Waupun!

As you know, downtown Waupun has got it going on. You’ve seen construction work happening for the new food truck patio, and now you’re seeing a new paint job, and a new mural on the side of the Stone and Suede building. That building came within weeks of being torn down, before it was purchased by the nice ladies who own Stone and Suede. 

You may remember how bad some of the properties downtown were getting about 20 years ago, and that is why in 2005, the city created a tax increment district in our downtown (known as a TID) to address building deterioration and blight that was occurring due to lack of investment.  Since its creation, TID 3 has generated roughly $10M in new incremental value in our downtown. 

Prior to TID 3’s creation, within the 400 block, we saw the demolition of three buildings due to significant decline due to lack of investment.  For those that may not realize it, that is the reason we have the green spaces / open spaces in that block.

Any time a building needs to be demolished, it negatively impacts the tax roll and may mean that the city incurs costs associated with the demolition and cleanup.  That’s also why the city now owns the vacant green spaces downtown.

From 2017 to 2021, the city struggled with questions around the future of 417 E Main St (the former Rock Shop) and what to do as ongoing deterioration was evident.

In 2021, the building was acquired and the city worked with the now property owners to secure grants.  Combined with significant private investment, that work supported essential structural repair and renovation to 417 E Main St and saved that building from a similar fate of demolition. 

Had that building required a raze, we would be faced with an even bigger gaping hole in our downtown and further loss of tax base.

Over the next couple of years, significant investment will be made from the proceeds of Tax Increment District (TID) 3 as it moves into its final two investment years. Investment of TID funds are restricted to redevelopment of the district and does not impact the tax levy.  When the district closes the new incremental value generated helps us all by creating more tax base to spread our levy across and helps keep our taxes low.

At present, there are several improvements underway as we work through these final investment years of TID 3, including:

1. Downtown Food Truck Alley is being constructed to the East of Stone & Suede.  This is a remake of what was previously an underutilized parklet and is being done in partnership with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and a Vibrant Spaces grant.  The grant is designed to help our community activate under-utilized spaces and in our case, we will gain a much improved park space with lighting, more seating, and electrical needed to host community-based events. Look for a ribbon cutting and program schedule to appear later this summer as that project moves toward completion.

2. The owners of 417 E Main have opted to paint the East wall of their building and are working with Leadership Fond du Lac County and a team of local business leaders to install a new mural that will complement the alley redesign and create a photo opportunity for visitors to our downtown.  Yes, this means that the existing mural will be covered.  While not everyone may like that fact, keep in mind that this is a privately owned wall.  The team working on this has obtained approval from our community development authority and has fundraised to support the planned improvement.   The owners are also working to repair the back of their building as of this writing due to loose and falling brick – again caused by lack of investment over many years.  I’m sure they will tell you that old buildings are a labor of love.  Because of the collective investment and commitment of many, the building has been preserved for generations to come and I thank all involved for their efforts. 

This is just one of many similar success stories downtown.  Last week, Gysbers Jewelry opened their new expansion.  If you have not had the opportunity to visit, I highly encourage you to see this greatly improved space.  Similarly, the owners of Wind & Unwined, Real Sports Cards, Jud-son’s and many others have joined forces to make significant improvements across our downtown.

New art installations throughout the community have been added, thanks to Jeni Maly and her nonprofit – Waupun City of Sculpture, and the Waupun Sculpture Tour will come to life later this year.  Look for fun ways to engage with public art coming later this summer.

The Waupun Senior Center building, located at 301 E Main, will be vacated this fall as we move to our new facility on McKinley Street.  The current building has been listed for sale and we are working with interested developers to facilitate redevelopment and return the building to the tax roll. 

A new brewery – Hoya Hop House – is under construction at 514 E Main (former Snow Law office) with plans to open later this year. 

We are working on back-alleyway and parking improvement plans across the downtown. 

There is example after example of business leaders investing to make Waupun better and preserve the historic architecture within our central business district.

Change is never easy, but without public and private investment and improvements like those listed, we would not be able to maintain a vibrant downtown while preserving the historic architecture that we all appreciate.  We should recognize and celebrate the business leaders across our community that continue to invest despite economic uncertainty, be open to change and ready to experience some exciting new things planned for our downtown later this year

Thank you Waupun!

Mayor Rohn