APPLETON - Downtown Appleton is getting a facelift.
While the makeover process will take several years, some of the progress can already be seen.
As one project in downtown Appleton is coming down, others are going up.
"There are some wonderful, exciting things happening in the downtown," said Appleton Community Development Director Karen Harkness.
Two of the most visible of several changes are the demolition of the former Washington Place, an outdated senior living facility behind the City Center and the renovation of Houdini Plaza. But Harkness says those are just the beginning.
"There's a lot of moving pieces here right now. We've got the library study going on, we've got the exhibition center, we've got some businesses that might be looking at expansion."
"I think it's all really positive stuff, but now, how do we leverage that and really set ourselves up for the future," said Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna.
A future that includes public and private partnerships. The city pledged $1 million toward the $1.5 million Houdini Plaza renovation. The rest is through private donations, $400,000 of which has already been raised.
While Houdini Plaza is one of the visible examples of the changing face of downtown Appleton, Mayor Hanna says there is still plenty more work being done behind the scenes.
Hanna calls the Washington Street the "backyard of downtown." The area includes the library, the transit center and the soon to be green space where Washington Place is being demolished.
"Now is the time to do some really important work These projects don't happen unless you spend the time doing some really good planning and if we do that, we'll have good things happen."
And so far, those who work downtown like Dave Willems, like what they see.
"Downtown has shown over the last five, six, seven years that we're willing to try some new things and we're willing to do some new events which I think is exciting for this summer."
Joseph's Shoes owner Perry Vanderloop says downtown improvements will help improve foot traffic.
"Most definitely, change is always good, people like to see change downtown."
"Are they doing enough for businesses would you like to see them do more? "I think so, I think the partnership, between the Business Improvement District, the downtown organization and the city of Appleton are doing a great job," said Green Gecko Deli owner Bob Wall.
And Harkness says what few vacant storefronts there might be downtown don't stay that way for long.
"Over the last 18 months, downtown space has been going very quickly."
The city is creating a comprehensive study for the future of downtown. The facelift won't be cheap. But Hanna says the city is in great financial position to handle the changes. And while it will take several years to complete, Hanna says residents will have plenty of chances to weigh-in on what that future will look like.
"We're going to need some help, some facilitation to bring all the different parties together to make sure we're moving forward in a logical way."
As the city strives to bring the magic back to downtown.
The renovations to Houdini Plaza are expected to be complete by sometime in June.
The demolition of Washington Place should be finished by the end of the summer.
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