That’s right, Downtown Waukesha is a jigsaw puzzle….and I am fortunate to be one of the many small pieces.
Our downtown is flourishing, but it is not by accident. Many passionate people have been working for decades to stimulate our central city. The analogy I like to use to explain this story is a jigsaw puzzle. Everything that contributes to the growth of our downtown is like one puzzle piece that may or may not seem to be very significant, but when hundreds of small, individual pieces are assembled, a beautiful picture emerges!
Downtown Waukesha is alive with activity and is definitely the place to be for new businesses, as evidenced by the number of ribbon cuttings in recent years. In fact, just last week we welcomed two new businesses to the downtown and we just had another ribbon cutting!
We have become a destination for visitors, which is an attraction to new businesses. A television news anchor recently referred to Waukesha as a “tourist destination” when reporting on Guitar Town! Small groups of people following the maps and “touring” the guitars in the downtown have become a frequent occurrence. Downtown Waukesha now has over twenty restaurants, 20-some galleries and many more boutiques, gift shops and service businesses! The recent purchase of the Rivers Edge Apartments by the Mandel Group and the new construction of the Kendal Lofts, indicate that people desire to live downtown as well. All of these items are picture puzzle pieces.
Another contributing piece to the developing picture is Waukesha’s Freeman Friday Night Live (WFFNL). Ten years old and still growing, this event is a key attraction of visitors to the downtown. A couple of years ago, the crowds grew to the point that the Waukesha Police Department had to close the streets for safety reasons. This action has made it safer for young families with strollers and wagons to attend. It also made it more accommodating to wheelchairs and motorized carts, so our attendance continues to grow!
Last winter, at the invitation of Mayor Scrima, a number of city and downtown leaders met on what was known as the Downtown Task Force. These meetings were open to the public and many citizens came and offered opinion. Several issues were discussed, which included downtown zoning, open intoxicants, street closures, insurance, noise, parking, as well as the frequency and hours of WFFNL. While there was some give and take, decisions were made by the majority, which laid to rest a number of topics that have been stirring, as the downtown has experienced “growing pains” over the past few years. Imagine that, a central city with positive growing pains! That’s a nice problem to have, considering what our downtown was like 10 years ago, the current economy, and the decline of historic downtowns.
In fact, I have received many compliments on WFFNL from other cities who are amazed that Waukesha can draw thousands of attendees each week for 18 weeks! Many thanks to Mayor Scrima, city leaders, the Common Council, as well as the Waukesha police and fire departments for their leadership and support of the downtown! This task force endeavor points out another big reason for the continued growth. The sense of community that exists in our city and in the downtown is healthy and is another puzzle piece.
The Waukesha Downtown Business Association (WDBA) has grown in the past few years from 13 to 55 business members who are very excited and committed to our continued progress. Collaboration between the city, the WDBA, the Business Improvement District and the West End Artists is increasing as we cross promote and assist one another in planning our events. We continue to communicate with the city and its department directors to resolve issues before they become major.
Cross-functional discussions are already taking place and plans are being made for the Silver Bells holiday emphasis in the downtown. Soon we’ll be singing “Silver Bells, Silver Bells,…it’s Christmas time in the city”, which will be a nice diversion from our HOT summer! Waukesha’s Freeman Friday Night Live attracts thousands of people each week to eat, shop and hear live music on six stages. Although the event is free to our guests, we encourage you to shop and dine local. We thank the twenty downtown businesses (puzzle pieces) that contributed financially and are listed as such on our website, flyers and posters.
See www.waukeshafreemanfridaynightlive.com. Special recognition goes out to our major event sponsors (more puzzle pieces), which include The Freeman, Waukesha Guitartown, First Federal Bank, Big Buck Country 106.9FM, Cricket Wireless, Today’s TMJ4, and positively encouraging K-Love 1x05.3FM. The event runs every Friday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., from June until October. As Mayor Scrima is fond of saying, WFFNL is our “community’s front porch”.
Stop down for a visit with all of your neighbors, support your downtown and become a puzzle piece! Downtown Waukesha is a jigsaw puzzle and the picture that is being assembled… IS beautiful. Thank you for your time and support!
Waukesha Downtown Business Assn, President; Waukesha’s Freeman Friday Night Live, Director; Business Improvement District, Board Member