By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD – “If you build it, they will come” is the concept behind the construction of the Wenzel Family Plaza. With that concept in mind, several Marshfield organizations are banding together to fund and create a means for driving traffic to the plaza when it opens this summer.
Marshfield’s Economic Development Board (EDB), Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB), and Marshfield Parks & Recreation Department have each committed $50,000 for the programming and the hiring of a dedicated staff member to oversee its operation.
Erin Howard, president of Main Street Marshfield – a group that is also instrumental in the operation of the plaza – said that a special committee will be created to administer to the collaborative project that is designed to create a gathering space and increase foot traffic downtown.
“Basically, this committee will be responsible, first-of-all, for hiring someone to run the plaza and then that individual would be responsible for specific details that we would present to them,” Howard said. “This individual would be doing a lot of networking, they would be socializing with people, establishing relationships; they are not going to just be showing where a plug-in is going to be, they are going to be making lasting relationships to bring people and events to the downtown and make it a thriving place.”
The plaza committee will consist of two representatives each, from the CVB, EDB, and Main Street Marshfield, as well as two ex officios.
Though some see the Wenzel Family Plaza as a risk, it is part of a larger vision for Marshfield in which city leaders hope it will perform as a catalyst for increasing economic development and activity, not just in the downtown area, but for the city as a whole.
“Let me make something really clear here. There’s always been a risk of doing this thing, but the risk of not doing something is (a lot worse,)” said Alderman Ed Wagner. “I don’t know how many more resale shops we can get downtown, but if you don’t invest in downtown, you’re going to find out pretty quick.”
Howard said that she has been using the plaza as a recruitment tool to entice interested outside businesses, and that the plaza might serve as a means to attract future residents.
“When people want to come and live (somewhere,) they look at the downtown and that will determine – I’ve done many different conferences for Main Street, my husband and I travel to different places throughout the state – and that is essentially what a lot of people look at is how well is the downtown thriving,” Howard said. “That is really one of the main reasons why, initially, the plaza has been talked about and most people may not know this but, the plaza concept has been in the master plan for years in the city, and I am just excited that it is happening and all of these different organizations are coming together, because that is what makes it stronger. It is a community plaza. I am excited about that.”
The Wenzel Family Plaza is being built with a combination of private donations and city funds. It is under construction on the 200 block between Central and Chestnut Avenues.
The opening of the plaza is set to coincide with Farm Technology Day, the second week of July.