BID works toward downtown strategy
Group looking at larger projects

By ALEX ZANK - Daily News

May 15, 2015

WEST BEND - The Business Improvement District has accomplished some of what City Administrator T.J. Justice called “low-hanging fruit” to improve downtown West Bend — or the things that do not require significant funding and can be done quickly.

The BID Strategic Planning committee met for the first time Thursday morning in an effort to map out the larger, long-term projects which require significantly greater investments of time and money.

Economic Development Specialist Amanda Knack, in an interview before the meeting, said these larger projects may include things like road or sidewalk improvements.

She said the city would take the lead with any street projects, but the BID could encourage the city to do them.

Justice said several reports were made over the past 15 years focusing on downtown West Bend. These reports all had ideas for improvements.

“The sad part of all these studies is that … nothing has been done with them,” said Mike Husar, BID president and owner of Husar’s House of Fine Diamonds.

Husar said there was some effort between 1982 and 1984 in making some improvements to the downtown area. Other than that, not much has been done.

Since it was the strategic planning committee’s first meeting, the members worked on gathering ideas of what should be done in the downtown area.

During a brainstorming session, their list of ideas included: reconstructing Main Street, opening the north end, opening the riverfront, area parking, installing bike racks and information kiosks, holiday decorations and attractions and revitalizing Old Settlers Park.

There was also an umbrella category labeled economic items, which includes marketing the area and creating incentives for more business to locate themselves downtown.

This is a preliminary list, so it may change based on what the committee prioritizes at later sessions.

One item committee members did go into detail with is parking.

Brian Culligan, committee member and owner of West Bend Tap & Tavern, said the issue of parking and the possibility of creating a parking structure has been thrown around before.

Justice said a parking structure likely does not make sense for a city West Bend’s size, as it would be hard to generate enough revenue to cover expenses and maintenance.

Some members also wondered if a lack of available parking may be more of a perception issue.

The committee is seeking public input on what other businesses they would like to see downtown.

Husar said a previous study suggested more restaurants were needed downtown. “We now have them, so we need to figure out what other shops we need,” he said.

Justice said after the committee has whittled down the list, he thinks there should be a public hearing to gather more feedback.