Ideas Explored to Develop Revitalization of Downtown Ripon | New

Ripon business leaders are brainstorming ideas to continue improving the city’s downtown core.

Leisure spaces for children and families? More cooperation with Ripon College? Improved Internet and cellular connectivity? Occasional opening hours late at night?

These are just a few of the ideas thrown around on how to continue improving the city center during a Ripon downtown vision planning workshop last week Thursday evening at the Mapes Hotel.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s Downtown Development Program Manager Erin Welty led a discussion with local Ripon business stakeholders.

The presentation looked at how the downtown district achieved many of its goals, but also explored opportunities for improvement.

Several local business owners were joined by City Administrator Adam Sonntag, Ripon Main Street Executive Director Craig Tebon and Ripon Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jason Mansmith to reflect on downtown possibilities. .

Currently, downtown Ripon makes up about 3% of the city’s land area, but accounts for 5% of its property value, making it an “economic engine” that “exceeds its weight,” Welty said.

About 80% of visitors to Ripon come from within 30 miles of the city – mostly from the Fox Valley area, rather than Milwaukee or Madison, she noted. Typical downtown visitors are shoppers, with a median age of 35, who typically visit all of the Fox Valley malls.

Welty previously held city center planning workshops in 2007 and 2015 in Ripon, where local stakeholders worked to establish goals for the city center, such as visual improvements, housing creation and increasing the number of dwellings in the city center.

The vast majority of goals set in those previous workshops have been completed or are underway, Welty said.

This time around, she asked business owners to identify potential competing cities, goals, and growth opportunities.

Cities like Princeton, Cedarburg, the Fox Cities, Port Washington and others have been evicted.

Back Porch Gatherings owner Tammy Gutierrez said Princeton and Ripon are competitors because the two are very similar, with a historic downtown and quality restaurants.

At the same time, dear Prudence owner Ellen Sorensen noted that many of her clients come to both Princeton and Ripon from large municipalities.

Gutierrez said larger cities have more restaurant chains, giving Ripon and Princeton a competitive edge.

While Princeton and Ripon compete in some ways, Vines & Rushes Winery owner Ryan Prellwitz said neighboring communities also help regional tourism, as Green Lake vacationers can visit Ripon, Princeton and Berlin during their stay. .

Growing up in Green Lake, Alexandria Games co-owner Patrick McConnell said residents see Ripon as part of Green Lake County.

However, Mansmith hinted at challenges when working with Green Lake County.

“There have been conversations for years about creating a tourist area similar to Lake Geneva, similar to Door County. With that, the problem is that Green Lake, at the county level, feels like sometimes we, the town of Ripon being a member of Fond du Lac County, get so much more because we are with them and their funding ”, did he declare. .

Jason Kauffeld, owner of J & G’s Place 2B Airbnb, who previously worked for the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Green Lake County, recommended working with Green Lake County business leaders and chambers of commerce to promote regional tourism and avoid some of the county level policies. .

In terms of the challenges the city center faces and opportunities for growth, Gutierrez said the limited hours can sometimes impact customers who come from large cities, where many stores are open until 10 p.m. at least.

Additionally, there is an opportunity for growth on Monday, as many Midwestern cities see businesses shutting down on that day.

Likewise, more “engaged spaces” could help people spend more time in downtown Ripon, as men and children could play on play equipment while women shop.

Sonntag cited the Titletown district in Green Bay as an example, noting that it attracts a different demographic than Ripon.

“They have engaged spaces that keep people there; how to integrate them creatively and logically into the city center? Sonntag said. “. If you are a family, with a few children, I don’t know if you are going to spend more than 40 minutes there.

Several business owners have indicated that improving internet connectivity downtown is another area of ​​growth, as cell service can be spotty downtown depending on the provider.

“One of the biggest challenges of any city center is connectivity and catering to modern society, where people want to stay connected even when they are on vacation or shopping,” said Prellwitz.

Another area of ​​growth identified for the downtown area was to make better use of the links with Ripon College to make students feel more connected to the community by providing internship and event participation opportunities.

Ripon College Associate Director of Engagement and City of Ripon Ald. Jolene Schatzinger said the first step towards increasing partnerships was to have conversations like the one in the workshop.

“The college and the individuals are more than willing and ready and want to see this connection,” she said.

After the brainstorming session, Welty plans to compile a list of action points and goals based on the ideas proposed during the meeting, as well as provide examples of how other communities have done similar things.

Sonntag added that there are little things the City, the House and Ripon Main Street can start working on to start the movement towards achieving some of downtown’s most important goals.

“At the end of the day, there are nuggets in this whole conversation that I think we’ve identified that we can work on almost immediately to try and move some of these things forward, funded and indefinitely,” he said. . “… What we’re doing here is planting seeds and developing a plan that creates a plan of work that we can work on and achieve over a period of time. “

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