By Jacob Mathias
The Wisconsin Rapids Common Council saw what Mayor Zachary Vruwink called “near final” preliminary designs for upgrades to parks along the city’s riverfront areas.
In a presentation by Taewook Cha of New York-based Supermass Studios, an urban design firm, about $10 million in proposed upgrades to riverfront area parks were outlined for the council. This is the third time the city has been presented with designs since June, each time being pared down to community and city suggestions.
“I think it’s important for us as a city to get these designs in front of as many people as possible,” said Vruwink. “Not only to get their feedback but to gain their interest and obviously build support for what we hope will be a renewal of our riverfront and the downtown.”
Cha said the biggest issues facing the riverfront was a lack of programming and visual diversity for the stratified population of the city, issues he tried to mend with his designs. Installation of new facilities and structures as well as more plant life and diversity are going to affect multiple riverfront parks.
“This is a river that inspires us. This river has so much character. It’s such a dynamic river. It’s alive, and it deserves the right amount of attention,” said Cha.
Veterans Memorial Park, located between the Grand Ave. and Jackson St. bridges, is slated for installation of public seating areas, an event terrace, a performance stage and a river deck with a shallow swim area and boat landing.
Mead Rapids View Park near downtown is being designed for more passive activities and will include a large river balcony and a swing grove.
At the East River Conservancy Area which spans the riverfront from Birch St. to Mead St. plans are proposed to reinforce the shoreline and install a memorial walk, fishing pier and cafe. Protection of the riverbank is being considered at all the sites.
Legion Park is located north of the Jackson St. Bridge along First St. North. With its natural sloping landscape, Supermass is recommending implementation of a natural amphitheater and performance knoll with a stage and stone seating. The seating and stage are likely to be available for donor recognition.
The three acre Henry Demitz park located next to the East Riverview Expressway bridge will be geared toward family activities and its already existing resources. Playgrounds, shelters, a splash pad and a boat landing are recommended by Supermass.
Also up for upgrades is the area surrounding the Tribune building on 1st Ave South. Supermass recommends a civic plaza with a flagpole, a fountain and a community pier. The area would feature limestone seating sourced from Wisconsin.
“We look to make our public places attractive places for people that live here,” said Vruwink.
About 20 members of the public were in attendance at the meeting and greeted Supermass’ plans with applause.
“It’s lovely to see something so bold being proposed for Wisconsin Rapids,” said resident David Farmbrough. “It’s nice it’s not just coming to a huge city like Madison or Milwaukee. It’s coming to our city. Thank you very much for that vision.”
Financing the upgrades is not yet planned but the city is seeking grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as well as community foundations and private citizens.
Next up for the riverfront upgrades is a more detailed implementation plan and timeline. Cha said this is a long process and will likely take more than five years to complete everything.
“This is not a short-term project,” said Cha. “This is a long journey that can take years and we need a very strategic pacing strategy.”
Preliminary designs for the riverfront upgrades are on display on the main floor of the Wisconsin Rapids City Hall located at 444 W. Grand Ave.
More details will be presented to the Common Council for possible approval at their next regular meeting on October 20 at 6:00 PM in the Council Chambers.