By Lee Reinsch
GREEN BAY – Relevant, thriving, welcoming and a cultural core.
At 25 years old, On Broadway is only getting better. But don’t expect anyone involved to rest on their laurels.
The Tuesday, Feb. 25, State of the Broadway District event highlighted the district’s successes from the past year, honored the people who helped make them happen and laid out aims for the future.
On Broadway, Inc. Executive Director Brian Johnson said Broadway hosted 54 events last year, up 42 percent from the previous year.
“The purpose of these events is to bring people down here,” Johnson said.
On Broadway’s events brought some 400,000 people down there.
Johnson unveiled a new event to mark the district’s silver anniversary.
SASS stands for Street Art Silver Series, and SASS walks (Aug. 20-23) will showcase public art, existing art, as well as art yet to come.
“We’re committing to 25 public art installations,” Johnson said.
Dressed in a gorilla suit (for guerilla marketing purposes) and a red SASS T-shirt, one of Broadway’s star volunteers, John Roake, took the stage with Johnson to help illustrate the point.
“One of our core tenets is creativity,” Johnson said, adding that Broadway believes in uplifting artists.
The submission process for interested artists will be in early March.
A few of On Broadway’s highlights for 2019 included:
• Wisconsin Main Street’s recognition of On Broadway for its summer Wednesday farmers market, naming it best special event in the state. It was the second year for that award. In 2018, On Broadway won it for the IgNight night markets.
• Wisconsin Main Street’s recognition of On Broadway and the City of Green Bay for best public-private redevelopment partnership; and Broadway district Rail Yard developer DDL Holdings for best adaptive reuse project for revamp of old cannery warehouse space.
• Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s recognition of DDL Holdings for best adaptive reuse.
• Beautification awards from the mayor’s office for two new businesses, Amphora Wine Bar and Pepper.
• $100 million investment in construction projects underway or about to be underway, which Johnson called “the most substantial investment in residential realty (in the district) in years.”
• Four groundbreakings in the district in 2019.
• On Broadway’s addition of a new marketing specialist to its staff.
• The donation of 2,107 hours by volunteers, valued at $50,000.
Broadway’s landscaping and planters will get some TLC this year, but that’s not the only thing the streetscape needs.
Johnson said the Broadway district needs to make a long-term investment in lighting to make the area attractive, as well as secure, and it needs to improve the pedestrian experience.
He also said the area has too many parking lots.
Multiple consultants have pointed out an excess of surface parking, he said.
“Gaps (between buildings) stop people from going on to the next block,” he said. “We need more development. People don’t come downtown for surface parking.”
While that may make some people squirm, he said, it doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a better parking management system in place.
Green Bay Director of Economic Development Kevin Vonck underscored the need for affordable housing in the Broadway District, stressing when people can find housing they can afford, it tends to be either substandard or not near their workplaces.
He cited construction projects within the Broadway District:
• The Broadway Lofts in the Rail Yard District, in the north part of the district, is a $20 million project involving construction of a four-story residential building with 93 affordable-rent apartments, along with two two-story townhome structures with seven affordable rental units each. They’re set to be finished in late 2020.
• Another project slated to start later this year in the Rail Yard district, at Broadway and Kellogg Street, is a $44 million mixed-use project consisting of a five-story building with 225 apartments, including studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments. Amenities will include a roof deck and about 7,000 square feet of ground-level retail space along Broadway.
• The Rail Yard, a 15-acre former canning factory brownfield site on the near west side, is well underway. DDL Holdings completed the first phase of infrastructure improvements and finished the first of its owner-occupied multi-story town homes last year. This year it will continue to transform about 100,000 square feet of vacant warehouse space into office, commercial and residential space this year.
• Plans for the Shipyard area on the Fox River’s west bank near the Mason Street bridge call for it to be a recreation and entertainment area for events, concerts and festivals. Vonck said plans include an urban beach, playground, splash pad and a container park, where start-up food, beverage and retail entrepreneurs can launch their businesses affordably, using shipping containers as their initial home bases.