September 15, 2016
By David Nordby The Brillion News
BRILLION – The Redevelopment Authority Commission (RDA) received what they asked for at last Thursday night’s meeting – plenty of community input on what the future of Brillion can look like.
“A lot of communities are facing this struggle with their downtown … A lot of communities are recognizing this and reevaluating,” City Administrator Lori Gosz told the audience of community members.
Over 20 community members showed up, doubling the 11 who showed up to the last meeting of its kind in April. Eric Fowle of East Central Wisconsin Regional Plan Commission (ECWRPC) was in attendance as well to present the research done by the organization that included ideas to bolster neighborhoods around Brillion’s downtown. He also presented what pieces of Brillion were labeled “jewels” by community members.
Ideas that were offered to ECWRPC included children’s museums, more signage and the inclusion of Brillion on the state trail. Fowle stressed the importance of coming up with “cool” things that would revitalize the downtown and help its reputation.
Community Development Director Cheryl Welch discussed with the group how the RDA is planning to use the $50,000 the city had designated for the HUB area. The RDA has been focusing on the former T & C Market portion of the building, which has been vacant for approximately seven years. The entire building is for sale for a number that has been fluctuating between $700,000 and $900,000 over the years, but the condition of the former grocery store portion has deteriorated and been designated as blight by the common council. The current owner has expressed interest in selling just the large west portion for $100,000 but he has put a time limit on the deal of December 31.
Also speaking at the meeting was Jon Bartz of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). He spoke about Connect Wisconsin, which is an educational consortium of community leaders. Brillion recently joined with Welch attending her first program that same day. Bartz also mentioned some of the many grants and other educational programs available to Brillion through its membership in Connect Wisconsin.
The RDA members know that the development is far more complicated than just the HUB building. “If we leave Dollar General in place, there’s only so much we can do,” Welch said. But on the other hand, the group talked about how Dollar General has become an anchor to the downtown and pushing them out may not be a good idea either.
Welch and the RDA continued to stress the importance of looking at the big picture, which has been their message all along.
“We need people to step back and look at the big picture,” Welch said, as she emphasized that the consequences of not doing so could result in losing the downtown.
No one in attendance has looked at the big picture more than community member Bob Endries. Endries believes the best way to revitalize the downtown is to envision what Brillion should look like in 50 years and work towards that picture.
The potential replacement for the HUB building, which was chronicled in The Brillion News, is not something Endries would like to see done.
Endries believes the police department and city hall buildings should not be placed on the second level of any building, but rather “highlight downtown Brillion.”
The city currently has $2.5 million to borrow for any projects.
This story was featured in the September 15, 2016 edition of The Brillion News.