Port officials give Main St. plaza plan rave reviews

Downtown gathering area would include fire feature, metal sculpture

A plan by Port Main Street Inc.’s Design Committee to create a gathering area with a fire feature and sculpture at the east end of Main Street was endorsed by the city's Plan Commission last week. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

The idea of creating a community gathering space complete with a decorative metal sculpture and fire feature at the east end of Main Street in downtown Port Washington got rave reviews from officials last week.

Both the Design Review Board and Plan Commission approved the concept plan for the plaza, which is being proposed by Port Main Street Inc.’s Design Committee.

“This is great,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich, an architect, said. “We’ve been working for years to come up with something there.

“This is simplistically elegant.”

Commission member Tony Matera concurred but expressed concern that the proposed sculpture and fire feature area would be too small.

“I love the concept,” he said. “I’m all in. But I would like to see more.”

If the sculpture is too small, he said, “What’s the point? I want it to be the point.”

The feature would be about six feet tall on an 18-inch base, said Amanda Williams, an architect and member of the Main Street Design Committee. 

The sculpture would be a metal artist’s interpretation of hawks swirling in what is known as kettling, she said, with the fire element in the center.

“It would be eye catching both in daytime and night time,” Williams said, noting the intent is to make it visible from Franklin Street.

The warmth it would provide would help draw people to the lakefront, she added.

“Right now, there isn’t a lot to draw people out at night or in winter,” she said.

The fact the sculpture would reflect hawks is fitting, Williams said, because the plaza is between several bird sanctuaries and many people come to the lakefront to look at the birds that gather there.

“I like the fire feature but, as the father of a 1-year-old, how do you keep it safe?” commission member Eric Ryer asked.

The fire element, which would be about two feet in diameter, would be in the center of the sculpture, which would be five feet in diameter, creating a “good separation” between the heat and people, Jeff Lamont, a member of the design committee, said.

The fire feature would be on a timer that would allow anyone to turn the fire on for a set period of time, perhaps 10 minutes, he said. 

It’s a tried and true procedure, Lamont said, noting the fire pits at Fiddleheads in Grafton operate with a timer.

The plaza, tentatively named the Heart of the Harbor, would include a shade wall, permanent seating and movable seating.

The intent is to create not just a gathering area for the community throughout the year but also an attraction that would draw people to the lakefront year-round, Williams said.

“This is already a de facto community gathering spot,” Lamont said. “You see a lot of things happening there.”

But, he said, it’s not a very functional space because there isn’t much seating there. During Port Pirate Daze in June, Lamont said, there was entertainment in the area but families sat on the curb or on the street while watching.

The plaza could also function as an entertainment space where art exhibits, bands and even plays could be staged, as well as a place where passers-by stop to take in the sights.
The committee is expected to begin fundraising for the project this fall, he said, noting initial cost estimates are between $200,000 and $250,000. 

“We’re hoping to keep the cost to $200,000,” he said.

Two donors have already stepped forward to pledge $10,000 each, Lamont said.

The committee would like to begin construction next fall and perhaps formally open the plaza for the 2019 holiday season, he said, but that’s dependent on the fundraising.


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