Consultants presented the Final Concept Plan to the Project Steering Committee and Committee of the Whole on August 7, 2014.
The design team and project steering committee have been working to bring the ideas identified by the community over the past month into a unified design for the downtown riverfront park area. A community open house was held at City Hall on Tuesday, June 17th from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM to display the synthesized plan and solicit comments. You can also provide comments to the team on this web site. View the open house presentation.
Planning, design, and engineering for the downtown riverfront park will be led by local consulting firm, SEH with assistance from JJR of Madison, WI. City Planner and Economic Development Director, Jayson Smith is managing the project with support from Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director, Dick Hebert and Director of Public Works, Rick Rubenzer. A project advisory committee has also been established with representatives from the City Council, Plan Commission, downtown business and property owners, the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, Vision 2020, and other organizations.
The team, together with participation from interested community members, will be refining the current concept plan into a more detailed master plan for the overall downtown riverfront park. This work will include development of a preliminary operations and maintenance plan, detailed cost estimates for construction, and identification of a first phase project for final engineering design and implementation in the coming year.
Project planning and design activities are anticipated to run for approximately nine months, with estimated completion in the fall of 2014.
The Chippewa River is the reason for the existence of Chippewa Falls, beginning with the construction of the Jean Brunet sawmill in 1836. Lumbering remained the dominant industry through the early 1900s, before being replaced with a variety of industries, with the most significant being shoe manufacturing. By the 1970s, the downtown, like many downtowns, was seeing manufacturing businesses close and buildings becoming vacant. In 1994 the City of Chippewa Falls began redevelopment efforts with the creation of the Redevelopment Authority and Tax Increment District (TID #4), which were instrumental in the Chippewa Shoe Factory Apartments project, the City’s first major effort to revitalize the downtown. Numerous highly successful projects were completed, from small to large, including Gordy’s IGA, Korger’s, and Leinenkugel Lodge. In 1999, the City completed its first downtown development plan (as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan) with one of the recommendations being the creation of a riverfront festival park. Beginning with a community driven visioning process in 2007, Chippewa Falls crafted a Downtown Riverfront Plan that identified opportunities to transform its riverfront real estate and capitalize on its environmental assets. Equally important is the community’s goal of establishing itself as a regional destination for business development, retail services, a place to call home, and a place to recreate.
Since the endorsement of the Downtown Riverfront Plan, many infrastructure improvements such as storm water sewer lines, water mains, the City’s water treatment facility, improving River Street, and the proposed roundabout are in place or are in the process of being completed. The commitment to relocate SEH’s office, acquisition of private properties, and the relocation of the visitor center are all nearing completion. The City has positioned itself to attract infill housing, solidified support from the business community, and put a TIF in place to help finance the Downtown’s investments.
This current project provides an opportunity to assess the progress to date as well as re-evaluate and validate previously identified goals. It also provides the opportunity to build on the annual spring traditions associated with Duncan Creek and Allen Park, reinforce regional connections with the Old Abe and Chippewa River State Trails, strengthen local access on the Duncan Creek Trail, increase fishing access, and leverage the existing boat portage. With many of the structures related to the combined sewer gone, there is an opportunity to create an iconic park and associated programming which will increase the awareness and use of the riverfront. By understanding how to manage the river’s seasonal water levels, the community can demonstrate how to both respect and reap the benefits of this dynamic shoreline and rich riverine ecology. Most importantly it provides the opportunity to leverage the river as a major catalyst for reinvestment. The community is now in a position to focus on the riverfront in terms of fast and easy public access, defining a strong visual entrance into the downtown, and strengthening a community image that embraces the outdoors.
Because of 20 years of commitment, planning, and investment to the riverfront and the downtown, the City is now in the position to actually create a Downtown Riverfront Park.
Jayson C. Smith