Downtown plan receives key recommendation

Commission endorses document that envisions significant changes to streets, harbor ahead of public hearing

SIGNBOARDS EXPLAINING parts of the proposed downtown Port Washington master plan were examined at a recent open house by Patricia Morrissey (left) and Kim Haskell. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

A downtown plan meant to not only guide development but give developers an indication of what Port Washington wants and doesn’t want was recommended for approval by the Plan Commission last week.

“This gives us a vision,” Mayor Ted Neitzke, chairman of the commission, said. “For too long we’ve danced to the beat of the developer. This just puts us in a very viable position.

“We need to work tirelessly to maintain our downtown.”

Commission member Kyle Knop added, “What I’m really excited about is we have this as an additional tool ... to decide, ‘Is this really the best use for this space?’

“I think this will help us be more deliberate in our decisions.”

Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, noted that the plan encompasses not only practical ideas but also those that are more visionary.

“This is not a literal plan,” Harris said. “It’s an aspirational plan. There are some big ideas they came up with. These are visions that may not seem possible or practical now. In 20 years, maybe.

“There are a lot of ideas, a lot of things to consider.”

The plan focuses on five key areas — the marina and waterfront, Coal Dock Park, parking and circulation, the residential-commercial mix and downtown districts and placemaking.

It includes major changes to the harbor, a roundabout at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Wisconsin Street and development proposals for properties throughout the area.

It calls for the conversion of East Main Street into “more of a festival street with curbless, plaza-like streetscaping,” a concept popular in Europe, Harris said, and work on Grand Avenue to link it more closely to the downtown.

“Downtown is not just Franklin Street,” Harris said. “The idea is to take that vibrancy and move it around downtown, especially to Grand Avenue.”

The plan identifies areas that should contain active uses on the ground floor — things like shops and offices — and areas where residential units, offices and professional services would be desirable on the first floor.

Areas that are ripe for more density are identified as well.

A protected bike lane through downtown that would link up with the Ozaukee Interurban Trail is included in the plan.

Also included are lakefront improvements such as extending the breakwater to allow more slips to be built and creating a launch ramp at Coal Dock Park as well as construction of a pedestrian bridge spanning the harbor linking Coal Dock and Rotary parks.

Better signage to lead drivers to parking throughout the downtown, and better parking management strategies are also included.

  Potential designs for some redevelopment sites are included in the plan, Harris noted.

Among those are a concept for the Port Harbor Center, where Dockside Deli and China King restaurants are located, that would reconfigure the space with two buildings and an extended alleyway that would allow people to see the lakefront from Franklin Street, Harris noted.

There are also two concepts for the Jadair property, an industrial site just off Grand Avenue that the city has long looked at for redevelopment.

“In the end, this is all up to the property owner,” Harris said. “Maybe it happens in five years, 10 years, even 20 years.”

Neitzke asked if Graef, the firm that created the downtown plan, had looked at alternative uses for the We Energies power plant, noting that if the utility decided to shutter the facility “it would be nice to have some ideas.”

While the consultant talked to the utility, nothing was envisioned for the power plant itself, Harris said.

Commission member Chad Mach said that although there are things in the plan he doesn’t agree with, “the thoughts and ideas are really solid.”

A public hearing on the plan is expected be held during the Common Council’s 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 20, meeting. Aldermen could take action to adopt the plan that night.


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