for the new Port Explorium include a rooftop deck for social
events and exhibits of local history. (Lower left) Developer
Gertjan van den Broek’s Harbour Lights project includes 13
Kapszukiewicz and her fiance, Alex Funk, chose to live in Port
Washington in early 2013 because it was centrally located between
A year later,
when they were house-hunting, Kapszukiewicz, 26, told their Realtor
that Port Washington was their "No. 1 choice hands-down."
"We came because of our jobs, but we’re staying because we love
the community," Kapszukiewicz says. "I think it’s great
that they are not just trying to attract tourism to Port, but they are
also trying to attract young people to live downtown."
who purchased a house in the city in February, is most excited about
the Boerner Building, a three-story, 32,000-square-foot building in
the heart of downtown Port Washington that was restored in 2013.
Tenants now include Sweetheart Cakes and ZuZu Pedals, a bike and
The decision by
the Duluth Trading Co. to move into the former Smith Brothers building
on a prominent downtown corner in 2012, followed by the restorations
of the Boerner Building and the Port Washington Historical Society
headquarters next door in 2013, have been the catalysts for the town’s
revitalization, says Mayor Tom Mlada. "I think when the Duluth
Trading Co. came in, there was a bit of ‘Why Port?’ but we needed
to change the question to ‘Why not Port?’" Mlada says.
"Once people started to see we were worthy of that type of
investment, they really started believing."
of those investments is the Harbour Lights Development, which
incorporates 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level
facing Lake Michigan on the east and Franklin Avenue, the city’s
main downtown retail corridor. Thirteen condominiums will be located
on the upper floors.
which is currently underway, redevelops the former M&I Bank on
Franklin Street and the Harry’s Restaurant building.
Washington resident Melissa Suddendorf, 33, says the city has always
been a destination for fishermen, but it has never had the retail base
to sustain day trips for other tourists.
opened a boutique downtown in 2010, Pear & Simple, and says she is
encouraged by all the other recent development. "We have so much
to offer. I’ve always looked at Port and thought it should be a lot
more," Suddendorf says. "I think the Duluth Trading Co.
making Port its home made everyone believe we can do this."
development in the works that will undoubtedly transform downtown Port
Washington is the Port Explorium. A Port Washington native gave the
historical society $1 million anonymously in 2012 with the provision
that it purchase the Businessmen’s Club building and turn it into a
sustainable museum for families.
Easier said than
For the last two
years, a museum advisory board has been diligently working to make the
request come true. Plans are now in place to design a state-of-the art
museum, including a lower level designed to look like a schooner. The
"ship" includes eight interactive exhibits for children.
"If we do our job right, visitors will be transformed to a
different time," says Bill Moren, chair of the museum advisory
the opening adult exhibit will feature the work of Port Washington
native Vern Biever, who was a World War II photographer and the
official team photographer for the Green Bay Packers for more than 60
project will cost an estimated $2.3 million. The historical society is
currently in the midst of the largest fund-raising project in its
history. So far, about $700,000 has been raised in addition to the
first $1 million. An opening date has not yet been set; however, Moren
is hopeful it will be next spring. "We don’t view this as the
historical society’s museum, this is the community’s museum,"
Moren says. "We want to make this about storytelling. This museum
is as much about the future as it is the past."