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Waupaca launches new incentive program to revitalize downtown

Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 5:19 PM CST
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WAUPACA, Wis. (WBAY) - The City of Waupaca plans on making a lot of changes to its downtown in 2021.

“We’re getting new curb and gutter, utilities, lights, benches, receptacles, we’re implementing a sidewalk poetry program, we’re doing bike infrastructure, we’re doing murals, public art, flower planters. We’re really giving it kind of an extreme makeover,” said Economic Development Specialist Andrew Dane.

Aside from plans to update it’s main street, the city is also assisting businesses that may want to do some fixing up.

City Administrator Aaron Jenson says early last year it was decided businesses downtown should get an opportunity to revamp, too.

“Obviously we were heading into the pandemic, tough time for all rural communities, small businesses, main streets,” said Jenson. “And we talked about what tools do we have to help to help these types of places out?”

Jenson says using TIF district funding the city created a Downtown Incentive Program, which launched a few weeks ago.

“One thing that’s unique about our program is most programs around the state are funding facade improvements,” said Dane. “This is going sort of one step beyond that.”

Dane says the program includes two separate grants - the Façade Enhancement Grant and Building Repair Grant. Building repair can include things like roof replacement, plumbing and electrical work.

Downtown businesses can get up to $15,000 for facade work and up to $25,000 for building repair with a 50 percent match requirement. Though Dane says they do have the ability to exceed those caps under special circumstances.

“Our intent is to push this program pretty hard for the next two years and we have potentially up to a million dollars to invest in downtown buildings in Waupaca so we’re extremely excited about that,” said Dane.

Dane says they hope the funds can be used to maintain historical features.

“To invest and maintain these buildings, in a lot ways it’s kind of a labor of love,” said Dane. “We are looking to encourage building owners to use historically-sized windows, to use historic treatments when they do the facade renovations so it gets really costly.”

Businesses can apply for both grants. Some have started applying, and Dane says they plan to continue taking applications for the foreseeable future.

“We’re anticipating some pretty exciting projects this year already,” said Dane.

“Anything we can do in a time that has been tough for everyone to help stimulate some of that growth and improvement, we’re always looking at those opportunities, and we’re excited to move forward,” said Jenson.

Get more details on both grants and the Downtown Incentive Program HERE.

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