Whitewater's Main Street program running ahead of schedule
Restoring the downtown to a bustling center won’t happen quickly, either, said Tami Brodnicki, director of Downtown Whitewater, which operates the city’s Main Street program.
“This community has worked very hard in an extremely short time period to accomplish what has been done so far,” Brodnicki said.
Revitalizing a downtown is difficult but rewarding, Brodnicki said.
City Manager Kevin Brunner said it’s natural to want instant results, but Whitewater only has been at this for about two years.
Building renovations are the easy part. The real challenge is recruiting new businesses and getting the right mix of shops and stores, Brunner said.
“The recruitment part typically doesn’t happen until the program is in its fifth or seventh year,” he said. “So, we are light years ahead of where we thought we’d be at this time.”
The downtown now boasts $7 million in private investments and more than 50 new housing units above stores, Brunner said.
Many of the historic brick buildings lining the downtown streets had ballrooms on their top floors that have been replaced by apartments, Brunner said.
Housing units are bringing more people to the center of the city for shopping and recreation, Brunner said.
Whitewater’s downtown includes the beauty of Cravath Lake and its lakefront park, walking trails and Whitewater Creek.
“Overall, we’re making good progress,” Brunner said.
The city is hoping for more shops that cater to students and wants to attract small stores, such as a candy, popcorn, chocolate and wine shops, Brodnicki said.
The city is recruiting high-end restaurants, antique shops, women’s and children’s clothing stores and bookstores.
Whitewater isn’t typical of cities that suffer from downtown blight—problems here pale in comparison, Brodnicki said.
Downtown Whitewater is working to create a logo and slogan to brand the downtown. The finished products should be ready to be unveiled to the community soon, she said.