De Pere taking advantage of opportunities
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – De Pere is seizing opportunities, Mayor Michael Walsh said at the annual State of De Pere event Tuesday, Nov. 12, at St. Norbert College.
“I think that’s the perfect description for our pursuit of growth and improvement over the past year and into 2020,” Walsh said. “We don’t passively wait for opportunities in De Pere. We seize them – eagerly and decisively.”
He hailed efforts to bring public art to the downtown through outdoor sculpture walks, art walks and murals and highlighted the new family-friendly beer garden nights.
Launched this year, the three beer-garden nights brought 4,000 people down to Voyageur Park for craft beer and music, raising $13,000 for city park improvements.
He credited Jim and Miriam Mulva for their contributions to the betterment of the community, including the under-construction $24 million Notre Dame School and the $3 million St. Frances Parish Center addition they’re donating, as well as a new effort to renew an area downtown destroyed by fire.
The couple purchased several properties in the 100 block of South Broadway, where the Turba Building, containing Ogan restaurant and several businesses, burned to the ground earlier this year.
“We call the area the Front Street Block, and it includes several properties like the former Century Lanes Bowling alley, Number 1 Chinese restaurant and Colonial Apartments,” Walsh said.
In accordance with the city’s cultural district master plan, the properties will be redeveloped into a mix of shops, eateries and public spaces that make the most of the Fox River.
“Not unlike the (proposed) Mulva Cultural Center itself, this is simply an unprecedented opportunity to continue the forward momentum of De Pere,” Walsh said.
Speaking of which, Walsh said the De Pere Cultural Foundation hopes to have designs for the Mulva Cultural Center completed by the end of the year, so it can be reviewed by the city in early 2020.
Last year De Pere saw about $9 million in new residential construction, including single- and two-family residential development.
That number was surpassed in August of this year, and permits continue to roll in, Walsh said.
Commercial investment in De Pere is $10 million higher this year than for the same time frame last year.
Overall, the city’s seeing a 30 percent increase in building permits.
Definitely De Pere’s Tina Quigley said volunteers logged 1,456 hours toward downtown endeavors, doing work valued at almost $35,000.
Quigley outlined a few project opportunities taken on by the organization, including:
• An artistic seating project inviting artists to develop decorative and imaginative outdoor benches for downtown seating drew 48 entries from artists around the country. The public art committee picked one bench called “Flow.”
• The De Pere Sculpture Walk program featuring 10 outdoor sculptures from May through October culminated in a People’s Choice Award going to “Transformation of Daphne,” or the blue metallic-leafed tree near the 100 block of S. Broadway. Definitely De Pere will buy that sculpture for permanent display.
• Hosting two mural artists from Amal, Sweden produced a mural tying De Pere to Amal through their proximity to rivers as well as tying the east and west sides of De Pere together for the same reason. To date, Definitely De Pere has commissioned six murals on buildings throughout the downtown.
• Partnering with the De Pere Beautification Committee has resulted in expanding existing projects, including hanging baskets, flower beds and seasonal planters.
Quigley said special events enticed more than 60,000 visitors to the downtown area.
Some new events in 2019 included: a block party for dogs, called the Doggie Block Paw-ty; food truck rallies in June, July and August; and a Sip and Shop event upcoming in December.