Letter to the editor: Community square key to redefining downtown Marshfield
Whether one uses the term community square, gathering space, or “200 Block,” an addition to our downtown has moved another step forward. As discussion and debate continue, it is important to consider several critical issues.
The 2006 Downtown Master Plan clearly noted the need to “Give downtown an exciting visual identity.” The plan also noted, “However, when driving through downtown Marshfield for the first time, this district does not reach out and invite visitors to stop.”
The 2015 Downtown Master Plan referred to the downtown as “austere” and “harsh.” It also stated that “there is no strong visual hook or feature that would grab a visitor’s attention and leave them with an image to remember.”
A park, of the type envisioned, is a visual hook; it is an image to remember; and it is an invitation to stop. It is also a way to soften the “austere” and “harsh” visuals. Plus, a similar concept was proposed in 2006 to provide a community focal point, gathering space, and to increase open public space.
To some, parking is an issue, and this park would remove some parking spaces. However, according to the 2015 plan, “Downtown business owners did not cite parking among their concerns for the district.” As researched by city staff, there is no parking problem in the downtown. The on-street and off-street parking spaces are more than adequate to serve the needs of the downtown area.
A report presented to the Economic Development Board in 2013 made this critical statement, “Downtowns … evidence a community’s identity.” In addition, “In fact you are in the eyes of everyone what your downtown is.” Consider the local downtown identity: harsh, austere, and bisected by a six-lane highway, or, if you prefer, an airport runway. A park should help to temper those pictures. For those who object to these characterizations, thoughtful observers have already presented them, without rebuttal, at public meetings.
Some people believe a 200 Block is an attempt to imitate the 400 Block in Wausau. Wausau’s city square came about because there was, and continues to be, a progressive, dynamic, forward-thinking attitude about downtown redevelopment. The same attitude can be found in La Crosse, Eau Claire, and Superior. A message displayed above City Center Park in Superior states, “Welcome to Superior – Living up to our name.”
We do not have to copy projects. We must copy progressive, dynamic, forward-thinking attitudes. If these are not applied here, what will our welcome sign state in the future? Perhaps it will say, “Welcome to the city in the center of the 20th century.”