Economic Development Board Discusses Programming for Wenzel Family Plaza

Plaza’s Programming Rests on Funding

The City of Marshfield’s Economic Development Board (EDB) met on Thursday, January 4, and a key item on the agenda was an update about programming for Wenzel Family Plaza.

Established for the purpose of directing, overseeing, and coordinating all economic development activities within the City of Marshfield, to adopt plans and strategies designed to foster business growth and development, and to ensure that the City and its partners work in a cooperative manner to promote coordinated economic development in the community, the Board, by direction of Common Council, is currently involved with Wenzel Family Plaza’s development.

Main Street Marshfield and other organizations such as Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MACCI), Marshfield Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB), and Parks and Recreation have come together to help organize the programming of the plaza.

The goal is for the plaza to open in July, with a ribbon cutting ideally to coincide with Farm Technology Days due to the influx of people in the community. Before that can happen, there needs to be a contract agreed to between the three organizations funding the project. In addition, a full time employee will need to be hired to fulfill the role of plaza coordinator.

As the organization willing to undertake the programming of the park, Main Street Marshfield is requesting funds to hire a full time event/organization coordinator to manage the plaza. Funds would include $50,000/year for four years from the EDB, $50,000/year for four years from City of Marshfield Parks & Recreation, and $50,000/year for four years from the CVB. CVB plans to match funds contributed by the City, up to $200,000 total. This would result in a total of $600,000 over the course of four years.

Main Street Marshfield’s Board President, Erin Howard, attended the meeting to present on behalf of Main Street Marshfield. Main Street intends to establish a committee to run the plaza, which will consist of two representatives from CVB, two from Main Street Marshfield, and three from the EDB, as well as two ex officios. For one of its first responsibilities, the committee would be responsible for selecting the coordinator.

“Obviously the person that we would be hiring for that position would be responsible to network, socialize, go out and get sponsorships,” said Howard. “They really have to be the cheerleader for that plaza.  I don’t care how beautiful that plaza is- if it’s not run correctly, it’s not going to be successful.”

EDB members expressed concern at the amount of funding requested, due to the lack of measurables and a job description- both which are currently under development.

“Does this body have a set of deliverables they expect from this position,” said Mike Eberl. “How are they going to measure if it’s not getting done?”

Howard noted that it’s been difficult to establish measurables, due to no guaranteed funding.

“We haven’t been able to define what those measurables are,” she said. “Right now, we are asking for money so we know what we are working with. It’s a complicated question, because no one knows how this plaza is going to be. It’s a risk. It’s an investment we’re all taking. It’s something that we’ve never done before, but what I am going to preach and I’ve been preaching from day one is this plaza will not be successful if we don’t have a team backing it up. It can’t just be one entity. That’s why we want a committee.”

Howard added that the plaza needs to be a community, not just a downtown, effort.

“I want to make sure everyone supports this, because it’s a community plaza and not a downtown plaza. This was an idea. This committee was supposed to create this all from scratch. I’m confident in a lot of the conversations that we’ve been having,” she said. “We do have a tentative job description and what we’d like to do is compare it to other cities like ours and other cities that have a similar plaza to see if it’s comparable. Whatever works in other areas is what we’d like to try.”

Proposed rendering from April 2017. Has since been updated.

“Let me make something really clear here. There’s always been a risk of doing this thing, but the risk of not doing something is a hell of a lot more,” said Alderman Ed Wagner. “I don’t know how many more resale shops we can get downtown, but if you don’t invest in downtown, you’re going to find out pretty quick.”

“As a property owner, I can tell you right now that there are businesses outside the area that,” said Howard. “One of the things that I’m using as a recruitment tool is the plaza. Build it and they will come. We have to believe in it in order for other people to, too.”

“If you want good results, you have to be willing to pay for it,” she added. “I know what I’m doing and I’m not saying that to boast. I’m saying that because I have a plan and it’s working and I know if I get other property owners in the same mindset as me, we can have a very successful downtown. I’m walking proof it can be done, but I need help to get people in that mindset.”

Other members expressed concern that there are not key deliverables and that there should be some identified before moving forward.

“If we don’t have something to work with, when we look back in a year or two, how are we going to say we hit the mark?” said Steve Barg, City Administrator. “And yet, what I hear you saying is that initially it is going to be hard to get your arms around what that looks like. But it needs to be something. There needs to be something or otherwise we’re not going to know if we performed for what we spent.”

Howard agreed that there needs to be accountability, adding that some Main Street supporters were hesitant about the plaza because they were worried it would be built, not be successful, and that Main Street would be blamed and lose support.

“Whether it’s bringing new business downtown or how many events held each year, as far as the specifics, we don’t have many right now, but it’s been talked about many times. We want this actual committee to lay down those guidelines,” she said.

“The deliverables have to be something that the person can actually control,” said Barg.

“If we want to renew in four years, we need a baseline,” said Josh Miller, Interim City Planner.

The agenda item closed with overall support for pursuing the funding outlined and hiring a full time coordinator. While there is also overall support for the funding mechanism, there are still many questions left unanswered.

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