USH 12 Middleton Bypass | Middleton, WI

Planning a Successful Downtown

Planning a Successful Downtown

Successful downtowns require continual effort to maintain their economic and social vibrancy. Having a downtown plan is a key component in supporting that effort.  Downtown plans include a vision statement and specific actions to improve the central commercial area, which can have buildings with urban character located close to the street, sidewalks, and enhanced walkability for pedestrians.

Downtown Plan Benefits
There are many benefits to developing a downtown plan.  It unites residents, business owners and municipal officials around a common vision. A downtown plan identifies both “low-hanging-fruit” projects that can be completed quickly to show immediate improvement, and long-term projects that can be prioritized and budgeted ahead of time.   It suggests, and illustrates, catalytic projects that can jump-start redevelopment within the downtown and strengthens grant applications.

Key Components
Effective downtown planning begins with some key basic components.
  • Research:  review existing relevant plans
  • Analysis:  analyze the urban context and existing conditions
  • Visioning:  establish plan goals and priorities
  • Engagement:  obtain community/stakeholder input
  • Plan:  develop a master plan and establish an action plan
After these basic components, additional plan components should be considered depending on the specific needs of the community. Parking studies, market studies, steetscaping plans, redevelopment concepts and design guidelines are just a few additional components to consider.  In the end, the plan should be scaled to fit the community’s needs and budget. 

Successful Downtown Plan
The City of Mauston knew it was time to make some improvements, especially with two upcoming Wisconsin Department of Transportation projects on the horizon.  Based on recommendations of the plan, City officials were able to completely revamp its underutilized riverfront park, which now boosts a new boat launch / parking, bike path, park pavilion and plaza, and playground area.  Other improvements made in the downtown area include a new parking lot, remediation of two brownfields, adoption of building and site design standards, and reconstruction of several downtown streets with streetscaping features. 
Mauston’s downtown plan was acknowledged nationally with an Excellence in Small Town and Rural Planning (STaR) award and a locally for its implementation from the American Planning Association – Wisconsin Chapter.  Check out these photos of their amazing transformation.

At MSA, we work alongside our communities to survey available resources, locate proper funding and develop plans that restore downtowns as thriving, vibrant places.  Contact MSA’s Stephen Tremlett to make your community’s downtown vision come alive.

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