Janesville55.5°

Fontana planning lakefront tourism center

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Kayla Bunge
August 14, 2008
— The village of Fontana is considering building a lakefront facility similar to a student union that would house public facilities and private businesses.

The proposed Fontana Tourism and Waterfront Activity Center at 454 Lake St. would include:


-- A meeting room with kitchenette facilities.


-- A marina and equipment rental operation.


-- A coffee shop and grab-and-go eating establishment.


The village has $1 million in tax incremental finance money available for the project, “but that won’t build us the building we have in mind,” said Joseph McHugh, executive director of the Fontana Community Development Authority, the organization spearheading the project.


McHugh said the village could borrow extra money for the project and repay the debt with the revenue generated by the facility.


The committee hopes to have a good handle on building plans and costs in time for an April 2009 referendum, he said. The project requires referendum approval because it would be funded by tax incremental finance dollars.


If residents approve, McHugh said construction could begin in fall 2009 and be completed by spring 2010.


“It’s very important we hit the nail right on the head,” McHugh said of designing the lakefront facility. “If we don’t have what people want, we’re not going to pass the referendum.”


The Community Development Authority created a committee to oversee the project, he said, and its first move was to develop a public opinion survey.


“That way we can get a very good handle on people’s likes and dislikes, wants and unwanteds,” McHugh said. “It would be unwise at best and foolish at worst to not take time to find out what the public wishes to see on that lakefront.”


Planning for the facility is seven years in the making, he said, dating to the Community Development Authority’s inception in 2001 and its plans for how it would spend TIF money.


Early plans for a building with both public and commercial elements have evolved into a lakefront facility with an emphasis on tourism, McHugh said.


“It’s a facility that’s free and open to the public—tourists and residents alike,” he said. “It’s not a private business that requires someone to bring a fistful of cash to benefit from it.”


Each element is intended to support Fontana’s tourism industry.


-- The meeting room with kitchenette facilities would accommodate group meetings and events. The space could be rented to civic, business and private groups.


-- The marina would administer pier slip rentals, rent non-motorized boats and water recreation equipment and rent equipment for use in the nearby park. The marina also would sell new and used motorboats and could coordinate boat maintenance and repair at an off-site location.


-- The coffee shop would provide lakefront visitors with food and beverages.


McHugh said other elements are being considered, including a tourism information center, a ticket kiosk for cruise lines operating on Geneva Lake, a library kiosk, wireless Internet access and outdoor seating.



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