Aerial view of downtown Mukwonago in 2013. (Photo: Todd Ponath/Now News Group)
MUKWONAGO – Downtown Mukwonago’s future may not look exactly the same as what its residents see there today, but the question remains about how it will evolve.
Could it involve an outdoor music festival perhaps? A broader landscape of artistic offerings? Classic car shows? Or maybe a more aesthetically pleasing downtown in general? It’s something residents have been asked in the past, but what do the businesses already in downtown think?
To that end, the village, through its downtown development committee and Make Mukwonago Yours website, is again reaching out to the public in a survey, this time with a focus on preferences of the community’s oldest business district among those most directly involved.
Adapting to change
Called the Downtown Mukwonago Vision survey, the questionnaire asks downtown tenants, property owners and owner/operators about their views concerning “the heart of the city” — the area along Highway 83 and Main Street just north of the Interstate 43 interchange — and its future.
The answers will help village update its economic development and market strategies, since its last report seven years ago, based in part of those direct stakeholders, officials said.
“As our community grows and matures, attitudes and preferences will continue shifting over time, and the village hopes to capture a snapshot of what our community currently is and what our next opportunities are,” said Village Administrator John Weidl.
The task will be to figure out how to manage the village properly based upon what it learns about the changing marketplace itself.
“We hope to understand more about how the local economy and spending patterns have changed by way of market analysis and survey data in order to develop strategies on how to best move the village’s economy and forward,” Weidl said.
For Roger Walsh, a village trustee who serves on the downtown development committee, the survey will further a plan created two years ago that should give Mukwonago an effective strategy to make downtown better.
“I think implementation of the 2018 Downtown Strategic Plan is critical to the downtown’s future,” Walsh said. “I think a critical part of the survey is gathering good facts and data with broad private and public feedback that guides future planning decisions.”
Mukwonago has used surveys in the recent past with a downtown focus. In 2017, as the village sharpened its focus on the business district, a survey included residents and even nonresidents on the kinds of things they would like to see downtown.
This time, the survey is aimed specifically at businesses and investment property owners with a direct stake in downtown.
“As the downtown is the heart of every city by providing a glimpse at the community’s identity, we are asking you to respond to the following questions regarding your perceptions of the downtown and its future,” the surveys says in its introduction.
For starters, the survey asks respondents what business development services would serve them best, including marketing services and small business training.
But the survey also tries to get respondents to paint a picture of the downtown’s art community, querying what one type of artistic venture, given limited resources, they would prefer. It could be more art classes, more public displays or the addition of outdoor music or markets, among other choices.
It also delves into some administrative questions, like who would preside over an organization created to carry out any or all of the ideas mentioned in the survey, and hurdles that would have to be overcome to make such efforts possible.
And, of course, such ventures would have to funded somehow, so the survey asks which mechanism is most palatable. Options include a tax incremental financing district, a business improvement district and public grants.
Acting on it all
The village has used public input in strategic ways in the past to support business development, Weidl noted.
“For example, adding grocery options, including boutique, was a previous recommendation, and the village has added Aldi, Kwik Trip and the Health Hut, as well as interior expansions and remodeling of both the Pick ‘n Save and Walmart for groceries,” he said.
Depending on the market and specific idea, changes would take some time, though not necessarily a long time, to implement, Weidl suggested.
When the last economic development and market strategies report was issued in 2013, the village took several years to implement several key recommendations, including a new village business park, hosting the annual economic development summit, and updating the village’s online presence, he said.
Weidl added that the village has put a special focus on the downtown in recent years, making it “a major part of its economic development strategy,” just as it has done for the expansion of its residential and business base.
“So another goal of this survey specifically within the market strategies report is to highlight and discover the ways in which the village can be a catalyst for the downtown’s continued redevelopment and revitalization,” he said.
Walsh acknowledged that the downtown is personally important to him, as it is to the village as a whole. He’s happy people continue to have a voice in its future.
“I’m encouraged that an expanding base of residents are actively supporting balanced economic growth that will make the downtown a pedestrian friendly destination,” he said.
Contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @jariccioli.
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