Plan Commission approves Downtown Marshfield Master Plan
With Common Council approval still needed, a look at the document that would guide the vision for future development of the downtown
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The City Plan Commission approved the framework of the Downtown Master Plan Tuesday night, a document that sets forth goals for further development and improvements to downtown Marshfield and strategies for accomplishing those goals.
The Common Council will meet on March 10 to discuss the plan and vote on whether or not to approve it.
The city has been developing the plan since May 2014 when consulting firms Place Dynamics LLC out of New Berlin and Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. out of Appleton put together a comprehensive analysis of downtown Marshfield, looking at areas for potential improvements. The previous master plan was developed in 2006, and the current document updates the strategies and goals outlined in that plan.
The city and consultants also incorporated citizen input via online surveys, public meetings and workshops, and the website plandowntownmarshfield.com, which was devised to keep residents updated regarding the planning process.
Jason Angell, Director of Planning & Economic Development for the city of Marshfield, described creating the master plan as a collaborative dialogue between city staff, citizens, and the consultants.
“Really the consultants, they took the ideas of the community and brought forward examples that they had either worked with in other communities or they’ve seen in other communities,” Angell said.
It is important to note that if the Common Council approves the plan, it does not mean that all aspects of the plan will be implemented. City Planner Josh Miller said that getting approval from the Common Council would mean “getting their blessing on the general idea.”
Miller added, “There are going to be some things in this plan that probably either aren’t feasible whether it’s (due to) economics or practicality, so there’s going to be things that aren’t necessarily going to get done in here, and so the plan process wasn’t to vet those out. It was just to come up with ideas and bring those forward through the public process and then the approval process through plan commission and council.”
The goals of the plan
The consultants established a number of goals based on citizen input that are designed to help revitalize downtown Marshfield. Those goals are as follows and come directly from the Downtown Master Plan document:
—Create an attractive downtown through investments in streetscaping, art installations, parks and green spaces, and quality private redevelopment projects.
—Support the growth and retention of existing downtown businesses while attracting new ones.
—Promote the downtown as the city’s preeminent shopping, dining, and entertainment destination by featuring a mix of specialty retail businesses, eating and drinking places, arts and cultural offerings, recreational opportunities, and events.
—Encourage redevelopment, infill development, and renovation or restoration of historic properties, resulting in high quality commercial or residential space, increased value, and an attractive appearance.
—Establish the downtown and adjacent neighborhoods as a preferred location for housing, offering high quality rental and owner occupied units in new and historic buildings. This could include opportunities for condominium and townhouse development.
—Continue to make the downtown more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
—Provide a centrally located, visible, and functional gathering space where residents and visitors can gather informally or during downtown events.
—Coordinate the activities of multiple organizations with overlapping roles and responsibilities for downtown revitalization.
Accomplishing the goals
After developing the goals for the downtown plan, the two consulting firms came up with 17 strategies to accomplish those goals and time frames for implementing them.
One strategy calls for investment in improvements to the physical appearance of the downtown. This could include working with owners of billboards to remove them from the downtown area. Adding artistic features to the downtown like fountains and other art installations would also be a consideration.
Another strategy is to make pedestrian crossings safer in the downtown area and to improve connectivity to neighborhoods adjacent to the downtown, which could promote more walking traffic and make the area inviting to pedestrians and bikers.
Adding green space to the downtown, including potentially turning the site of the former News-Herald building into a park, has been given considerable thought in the master plan process. Also, developing a “green corridor” along Second Street by making the street more pedestrian and bike friendly and adding “vegetative landscaping” is a consideration.
The master plan would look to develop distinctive entry features, additional signage, and landscaping to distinguish the downtown area from the rest of Central Avenue and also to direct people toward the core of downtown.
The creation or utilization of second-floor balconies and rooftop patios is also a part of the plan for making a more distinct and enjoyable downtown. Many buildings on Central Avenue currently have vacant second-floor space, and the city may look to meet the need for offices and residences by repurposing those areas as well.
A market analysis by the consulting firms showed the potential for new restaurants in the downtown area, particularly ones where high quality and relatively quick meals could be served. Market research also indicated that Marshfield could support a new midscale hotel.
Another facet of the master plan will be to evaluate community events hosted in the downtown area and determine which ones are worthwhile, popular, and desired by the public. A possible offshoot of this process could be looking for new events to come to the area and replace those that have lost the community’s interest.
There will be many entities involved in the further development and implementation of these strategies, principally the city of Marshfield, Main Street Marshfield, and the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The master plan also calls for an ongoing review process to continually assess the progress of its implementation.
Angie Eloranta, Executive Director of Main Street Marshfield, said she was eager to begin working to implement the plan.
“The Downtown Master Plan’s strategies were undoubtedly put together with a lot of thought and deliberation specific to our downtown. As a fairly new executive director, I am excited about utilizing this master plan as a guide and accountability tool for all of us at Main Street Marshfield,” Eloranta said.
She added that the execution of the plan would be a collaborative effort.
“This is definitely a team effort plan, and we are looking forward to working with the City, MACCI, and other organizations to implement these strategies,” Eloranta said.
The Downtown Master Plan is available online in its entirety. To find the plan, visit the city of Marshfield website, ci.marshfield.wi.us, and look under “Recent News” on the home page.