Hartford leaders aim to revitalize downtown
City to spend $1 million on improvements


Sept. 22, 2015

  Luke Dulay, 7, of Hartford presses a crosswalk button as he waits for his 6-year-old sister Nell and grandparents Doug and Joan McKay to catch up near the blocked-off area of the old Mole Hole building Friday afternoon in Hartford.
 John Ehlke/Daily News

HARTFORD - A team effort is pushing for improvements in Hartford’s downtown.

The Hartford Area Development Corp., the Downtown Hartford Business Improvement District and the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce have banded together to hire Vanderwalle and Associates of Milwaukee for a downtown overhaul.

Tom Hostad, executive director of the Hartford Area Development Corp., said, “The First National Bank is also involved as a financial supporter.”

There are three areas the partners want to include in the plan.

“One is the Mole Hole building (100-106 N. Main St.), the second is three buildings north on Main Street and the third is a vacant building at the southeast corners at highways 83 and 60,” Hostad said. “We want this to be a project that will be implemented,” Hostad said. “We don’t want to see another downtown plan left on a shelf to gather dust.”

Hostad said the groups were impressed with the work Vanderwalle had performed on downtown projects in Middleton, Jefferson and Delavan.

Hostad said Vanderwalle and Associates will give a presentation Sept. 30 to the key backers of the redevelopment.

“On Oct. 7 there will be a meeting where the public will be provided information,” Hostad said.

Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Scott Henke said improvements in downtown could have a ripple effect.

“The Chamber’s role is to do what it can to promote availability of possible affordable new housing in the downtown which could help new area employees,” Henke said. “Affordable housing for workers and company executives could be created through this plan."

City leaders said earlier this year a public-private partnership was needed for a meaningful, workable downtown redevelopment plan. The city included two phases for downtown infrastructure improvements in a five-year capital improvement that total about $1 million. In May, City Administrator Gary Koppelberger said redevelopment would require tax incremental financing and potentially up-front money from the city.

“The project has major public purpose aspects including improvements to downtown parking areas, storm water runoff and adjacent streets,” Koppelberger said. “Hartford must be prepared to offer assistance aimed at reducing developer costs, making renewal developments similar in cost to those encountered by developers on pristine sites.”

Last fall the city closed a portion of a sidewalk adjacent to the former Mole Hole building because of falling bricks and concerns about the building’s structural integrity. Additional scaffolding was recently put in place by the building to allow work on some of those problems. Thomas Niebler, who owns properties across from the Mole Hole building, has made recent attempts to see the building repaired and restored.

Reach reporter Joe VanDeLaarschot at jvan@conleynet.com