Downtown facade/building grant program eyed in Slinger
Loan/grant program may be first item tackled for downtown redevelopment

By Joe VanDeLaarschot

Oct. 16, 2019

SLINGER — Slinger officials have set priorities for aiding redevelopment of the village’s downtown, but what could be the first steps in the new year?

Earlier this month the Village Board approved a recently completed report by Vandewalle and Associates about improvements that could be coming to the downtown. The report also included a list of priorities that village leaders and residents have agreed on should be top projects.

For 2020, Village Administrator Margaret Wilber said focus will be on rehabilitation or restoration of existing buildings, in-fill development of vacated businesses and lots downtown, and Kettle Moraine Drive and Ice Age Trail improvements.

Wilber said work on achieving the first priority will include setting up a facade and building improvement loan/grant program.

“The budget for that will come from our former Revolving Loan Fund and additional RDA funds,” Wilber said.

The goal of in-fill development is not budgeted at this time, but the village is exploring the possibility of establishing a tax incremental district that would include a small portion of the downtown area, “so a budget for that would be developed if the district is created,” Wilber said.

The Kettle Moraine Drive and Ice Age work “is already budgeted using part of a borrowing we completed this year and the DNR grants we were awarded late last year,” Wilber said.

Some of the other items on this list, Wilber said, will be planned out in more detail once the village’s Parks & Recreation Department completes its updated Parks & Open Space Plan.

“They are just beginning the work on that, so that information probably won't be available until some time next year,” Wilber said.

As for rehabilitating or restoring existing buildings, the village will seek to begin a fund of $50,000 and replenish the fund every two to three years. Village officials said a typical facade grant/loan could be between $5,000 and $11,000 per building and requires a match of at least 50 percent. Village staff will work with local banks to provide low-interest loans as part of the program. Staff also will emphasize and enforce the recently adopted property maintenance codes which will help improve the downtown’s appearance.

In-fill development will work to fill empty stores and lots in the downtown by recruiting developers and to create a local banking program to acquire properties as they become available.

Kettle Moraine Drive and Ice Age Trail improvements will work to direct Ice Age Trail users to the sidewalk on the east side of the street, provide trail way-finding and interpretive signs and add pedestrian scale light fixtures. They also hope to widen sidewalks where possible and enhance the crosswalks.

Other elements to that effort include:

■ Add banners, benches and trash receptacles.

■ Create small downtown gateway features including signs near Community Park.

■ Consolidate and narrow driveways wherever possible to increase on-street parking spaces.

■ Obtain easements from adjoining property owners to add shade trees and other features along the sidewalk.

Moving some of the baseball diamonds from Community Park to the new and future Breuer Park will provide additional land that could be used to add additional downtown features.