Eagle, Butler join WEDC revitalization program

By Jordyn Noennig - Special to The Freeman

July 1, 2014

MADISON- The villages of Eagle and Butler were accepted to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Connect Communities Program earlier this month.

The program, created in 2013, is an effort to redevelop downtown areas and communities throughout the state.

Some specific programs available to the communities in the program include training for the downtown director or board president, roundtable discussion groups, access to WEDC’s downtown development online library, and access to WEDC’s Wisconsin Main Street communities training materials.

The statewide communities also benefit from networking with other similar villages or towns. Areas with small or rural downtowns often look at examples of what other communities have done with little money or resources, but big ideas.

“We’ll be able to  communicate with others in the program; we won’t be so isolated,” said Alli Chase, member of the Eagle Business Association.

The Connect Communities Program more than doubled this year, its second full year in operation, adding 22 communities to its existing 19.

Mark Maley, public information manager for WECD, is confident that its existing resources will be able to accommodate the increase in communities.

“It is our intent to continue to accept up to 20 communities each year as we feel we have the capacity to accommodate a larger program,” Maley said.

Hartland and Menomonee Falls were a part of the first group accepted in the program.

“It has been a positive relationship,” said David Cox, Hartland village administrator.

“Not only do we get the ability to go the the various seminars, but it has also been useful for connections,” Cox said.

Through WEDC’s program, Hartland connected with students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to work on downtown innovations. The village and students are developing ideas to create a river walk that connects with the Ice Age trail in the village’s downtown. 


Eagle officials plan development

Eagle officials are currently working on a plan to renew the downtown square off Main Street. The village planted new shrubbery and will update the gazebo near the corner of Main and Grove streets.

Other future goals include developing a shopping center at Main Street and Markham Road. The officials also want to convert a mix of small business and older residential dwellings in their downtown area to have business uses on the first floor and residential apartments on the second floor.

Eagle officials are also taking advantage of the resources given to them by hosting a webinar in the Alice Baker Library on July 16.

“This is a great opportunity for the communities of Eagle,” said Eagle Village President Richard Spurrell.  “Having resources and expertise available to help revitalize the downtown area will benefit the whole community and its residents.”

Butler also is excited to be a part of the program.

“Butler is looking forward to moving in a positive direction,” said Susan Hesselgrave, member of Building a Better Butler.

“(We are) bringing together the Chamber of Commerce, local government, business owners and residents in an effort to build the foundation for a strong, vibrant, positive village,” said Hesselgrave. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to network with WEDC and the other Connect Community participants as we develop a program that will enhance our downtown and increase the quality of life for our residents.”