By Greg Ylvisaker
The Black Creek Business Association met with University of Wisconsin student Taylor Polenske on Tuesday morning, Feb. 18 to discuss progress on Black Creek’s Main Street Project.
On Dec. 11, 2013 Polenske had an open-booth at the Black Creek Christmas Festival where she had a survey intended to see where the community’s interests were in regard to revitalizing the village’s downtown and surrounding areas. An article was also printed in the Advertiser Community News & Times Press with information about the survey.
The bulk of Tuesday’s meeting was to look at the results of that survey.
The survey began by giving a list of different community aspects and asking residents to rank these by which they felt was most important. The choices included sense of community, active and healthy living, places to shop, etc.
Sense of community turned out to be most important on the list. Active healthy living was next followed by walkability and beautification.
“I think that’s pretty easy to understand,” said Polenske. “A sense of community definitely comes with unity and bringing people together. We’re starting that right now with the business community at the very least.”
Along that line of thinking, Polenske said that one of the things she would like to investigate would be using an empty lot adjacent to the bike path to build a community center that would have facilities to host both indoor and outdoor events.
She stressed that this was not to discourage existing community events held at places such as the fire station, but rather to have a central location available to the community.
The next question dealt with what people enjoyed most about Main Street currently. The responses indicated the favorite of the community were the shops and restaurants. The idea given by the survey was that people appreciated the recent renovations but were in favor of preserving the atmosphere of the smaller town.
The top responses when asked what people would like to see more of on Main Street involved cleaning up the downtown area but maintaining a sense of cohesion and sense of place. Other responses showed a desire to encourage the mom-and-pop type of small businesses that already exist in the community as well as attracting more food options.
Residents demonstrated that they would like to see a focus placed on making the street of Black Creek more bike friendly as well as incorporating bike traffic from the trail onto the streets of Black Creek in an effort to encourage more traffic along business routes. Polenske said that based on the overwhelming response she would make it a point to focus on both of these issues.
The results also showed a desire for more greenery and green space around the community. One of the proposals suggested the use of wooden box planters to add trees along Main Street. The board will look into this further since there are Department of Transportation regulations regarding the distance from the street planters must be kept, as well as a village ordinance stating there can be no planting within the terrace area of the sidewalk. The Board plans to examine various options to accommodate both the DOT and the Village ordinance, while still ensuring that the communities wishes for the project are met in regard to green space.
Another area the board was interested in was how to slow traffic down as people drive through Black Creek in the areas specifically around Highways 54 and 47, as well as the area around Burdick and Main Streets.
Polenske proposed the idea of bump-outs at corners with crosswalks. A bump-out is a section of sidewalk that extends into the road further than the actual sidewalk. This provides motorists with a sense of a narrower street, encouraging them to slow down. Polenske said that this should also improve safety while crossing the street by actually decreasing the distance required to get across.
Parking was also a concern the survey examined. The responses were nearly split down the middle. Polenske said the impression she got from the responses suggested that there was adequate parking during the day, but parking became difficult during the evening. This issue becomes especially difficult due to parking places being reserved for specific businesses.
“If Main Street was at capacity with businesses we would be way short on parking,” said Village President Steve Rettler.
The board also discussed ways to recruit new retail businesses to the area.
University of Wisconsin Extension Community Resource Educator Jim Resick put together a presentation outlining an eight-step approach to attract businesses to the area.
For these eight steps to be effective, several points would have to be met. The board would need to assemble a business recruitment team to research, identify and approach appropriate businesses that could prove beneficial to the community and fit the Village model and would help to achieve the ultimate goal of a sustainable revitalization of the community.
Before they could do this the community would need to ensure an inventory of available properties to be sold, leased or rented to these potential businesses. Most importantly the community would need to be committed and organized to bringing in new businesses to help revitalize the area.
“Hopefully this project brings everyone together when it is finished and leaves them with a sense of pride,” said Polenske.