By Jacob Mathias
Preliminary concepts for future possible updates to the Wisconsin Rapids riverfront were seen by city officials and the public over the last week, bringing a glimpse into what’s possible on the river.
“They’re definitely making progress by the way of achieving the objective of activating some of the spaces that we think can serve better purpose for the public,” said Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zachary Vruwink. “This stage was very much high level concepts. Then we get feedback from staff, elected officials and the public.”
New York-based Supermass, an urban landscape design firm, was hired by the city in May to complete a design plan for a two mile section of public riverfront space between the Riverview Expressway and the northern city limits. Many public parks dot the riverfront including Legion Park, Mead Rapids View Park and Veterans’ Memorial Park.
“I like the concepts. We all would like to make more use out of the riverfront,” said 8th District Alderman Terry Dolan. “But we’re going to need entities to work together to make that happen. Obviously the city doesn’t have the money to just do that.”
Costs of upgrading the riverfront are not readily apparent but the city is seeking a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as well as community foundations and donors.
Vruwink said this is the first phase in riverfront concepts by Supermass and they’ll be incorporating the city’s feedback into future mock-ups.
“We’re very much convinced that- and other communities that have done this have demonstrated- once a city invests in itself with some of these public spaces, private investors will also invest- and they invest in different ways,” Vruwink said in May. “So we’re looking at a very large investment along the east river bank.”
The upgrades to the various parks include a number of walking paths, a river view terrace, performance areas, fitness spaces and a hammock grove.
At Lunch by the River on Thursday, the public was able to view the concepts provided by Supermass and provide written feedback to the designers and city officials.
“It’s early,early stages and we hope it continues to be well received by the public,” said Vruwink.
Vruwink said he felt that the public’s opinion of the upgrade options was overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people and I think everybody’s excited about what could happen on the riverfront,” said Dolan. “With that being said you’ve got to have businesses too.”
A more finalized concept for the riverfront upgrades will be presented to the Common Council at their August meeting. Any construction, pending funding, would not begin until at least Spring 2016.