Main Street goal: more people-friendly downtown Port

Group’s director lists new pedestrian gathering place, Franklin St. archways, larger farmers market among priorities

PORT MAIN STREET INC. is determined to make the city’s downtown business district more family friendly through a variety of improvements, according to Executive Director Melissa Alexander. Among the upgrades Alexander proposed in a recent forum attended by business representatives is the creation of a pedestrian gathering space. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

 Port Main Street Inc. is developing several new projects for its downtown business district to provide more community activities and commerce in the city.

“My No. 1 objective is to promote all the businesses in Port Washington. It’s a fun project that comes with its challenges,” Executive Director Melissa Alexander said to about 30 business representatives during the organization’s open forum Thursday, July 10, at Ansay & Associates.

The nonprofit organization is one of 36 Wisconsin Main Street Communities that represents 125 local businesses and is accredited through the National Main Street Center.

Since becoming director in March, Alexander has been developing more offerings for area businesses.

“I want to maximize your marketing dollars and recruit more businesses. I want all of the storefront and office vacancies filled in the community with businesses that will complement each other and continue to grow more people in the area,” she told officials attending the forum.

In addition to managing businesses growth and development, Alexander is working on new community projects.

Alexander said the organization is developing a pedestrian gathering space on the lakefront at the end of Main Street, which will be called the Heart of the Harbor. Alexander is working on sponsorship opportunities for the plaza.

“We have people in Port Washington and outside Port Washington who would love to be part of it,” she said, noting a local dermatologist has donated protective sunscreen sails for the project.

Alexander said she wants to improve the aesthetics of Franklin Street by installing steel archways between the alleyways of  businesses.

“Visitors and tourists will know they can be used as walkways. They’re quite lovely and will make the alleys less frightening for kids,” Alexander said, laughing.

Alexander also mentioned she is working with businesses on Franklin Street and Grand Avenue to improve the customer traffic flow by making it a more “fluid connection.”

“We’re looking for suggestions and ideas for improvement so when you turn the corner it doesn’t feel like a completely different place,” she said.

Next year, Alexander said, she plans to start an interactive community arts walk that will highlight the work of local artists and students. The walk will extend from Grand Avenue to the retaining wall on Jackson Street.

“We want to bring people through downtown and have a festival at Veterans Park,” Alexander said.

Besides working on new initiatives, Alexander is seeking to improve past events such as Ladies Night Out, which will be held Sept. 17.

While this year’s theme is “top secret,” she said the event will be highlighted as a wine walk between shops.

“In the past we’ve done board games like bingo, but this year we want to make it more interactive and less like a game show,” Alexander said.

Maxwell Street Day, which will be held Aug. 3 on Grand Avenue and Franklin Street, will have a new take this year by including online offerings from area businesses. Alexander said this year’s event will be called Franklin Fest.

“Because of e-commerce and the change in the times, we decided to take a modern spin on it,” she said. “It won’t be just retail vendors. It will literally be anything you want to make it, and it will be more of a street festival.

“We want more community involvement so more people are drawn to the downtown area.”

Alexander said this year’s farmers market, which runs through Oct. 26, has more vendors than in the past.

“My goal for next year is to expand it and double the vendors so we can take up two blocks,” Alexander said.

On Aug. 23, from 5 to 10 p.m., there will be a Food Truck Festival along Veterans Park that will coincide with Port Washington Park and Recreation Department’s Friday Night Flicks.

“It’s going to be a trial run to see if we can do more for a series next year,” Alexander said.



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