Public asked to chime in on downtown Port plan

Survey, workshops designed to get input on key issues including waterfront, parking, development
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington officials have heard from select groups of downtown developers and businesspeople as they seek to create a master plan for downtown, and now they want to hear from the public.

Residents are being asked to weigh in on the downtown strategic plan, both through an online survey and workshops to be held in the coming months.

More than 200 residents have already responded to the survey, which can be accessed through the city’s website, Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said Tuesday.

But the hope is to get many more responses, City Administrator Tony Brown said.

“The hope is to get at least double that number so it’s really a community plan,” Brown said.

In addition, the city plans to hold two workshops to get public input. The first will be held on Wednesday, May 18, although a time and place haven’t been announced, and the second will be held sometime this summer.

“I just hope people will provide feedback,” Brown said. “I’d like it to be a plan that has as many residents’ voices as possible so we understand what they’d like to see as the future of the area.”

The city’s consultant, Graef, has already held interviews and focus groups with select downtown developers, officials and property owners who said the city should embrace its current development at a controlled pace. However, Graef reported, they also felt recent developments lack an overarching vision for the downtown.

Five key issues have been identified, Harris said — the marina and waterfront and how they define the city, the mix of commercial and residential uses to embrace the character of downtown, parking and traffic circulation to meet changing conditions downtown, making Coal Dock Park a year-round destination and the overall downtown district that extends beyond Franklin Street and Grand Avenue.

He said the groups were encouraged to look not only at short-term, practical measures but also large, aspirational projects.

“You want to accommodate some immediate things, but you want some visionary things too,” Harris said.

In terms of the waterfront, Graef reported that an expansion of the marina was suggested by some, as well as study of a new breakwater to accommodate more slips, a new boat launch and recreational activities such as kayaking and canoeing.

Marina parking needs to be addressed, Graef said, adding the suggestions include moving the launch ramps, having valet or shuttle services to move people from the marina to parking lots.

Those responding also said use of the marina parking lot in off-peak times should also be addressed, including the idea of creating a four-season event space, a park or plaza, better pedestrian connections and diversifying the use of the area.

In terms of the commercial and retail activity, a number of people said shops aren’t open long enough, there is a need for a bakery or breakfast shop, fresh market, new cafes or coffee house, restaurants, entertainment and a general store, Graef said. In addition, many expressed concern about the lack of first-floor retail spaces and suggested some offices and service businesses could move to upper floors to open up more ground-level shops.

They were supportive of residential development downtown, but also said better architectural requirements need to be part of any plan, the consultant said.

Most people said there isn’t an issue with the amount of parking in downtown, but the existing parking needs to be better managed, Graef reported, although some noted parking supply could become an issue as development continues.

Slowing traffic to increase safety was a concern, the firm said, and among the measures they suggested should be studied are protected bike lanes, four-way stop signs or even a compact roundabout at the corner of Wisconsin Street and Grand Avenue.

They also said pedestrian safety isn’t a major concern but the experience of walking downtown could be enhanced, and biking could also be made safer.

They’re also concerned about the condition of the lighthouse and see opportunities for public art to enhance downtown, Graef said.

To access the survey, visit portwashingtonwi.gov.

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