By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The official “Power of 10” report from the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission is now available.
Business owners and area residents participated in the Power of 10 Workshop on July 20 held at A Little Slice of Italy.
Colfax was one of two communities selected as the beneficiaries of a grant from the Project for Public Spaces for which the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission had applied.
Representatives for the Project for Public Spaces, a non-profit organization based in New York City, had conducted the same Power of 10 Workshop earlier in the day for the Village of Owen.
Here are some of the recommendations from the 18-page Placemaking Downtown Colfax report:
• The Colfax Railroad Museum is an underused facility that has the potential to draw large numbers of visitors to Colfax. Recommendations include improved signage, seating and landscaping along with expanded activities such as a train-set playground or special activities such as a railroad buff swap meet or holiday train event. Partners to help with improvements at the railroad museum could include the Colfax Woman’s Club, 4-H groups, church groups, school groups, the Village of Colfax (sidewalk improvements and trimming trees) and finding foundations to provide funding.
• The intersection of Main Street and Railroad Avenue is an area where pedestrian safety is an issue. The intersection could benefit from a sign indicating the entrance to downtown along with signs directing people to local attractions, such as the Colfax Fairgrounds and the Colfax Railroad Museum. Improvements could include more outdoor seating in this section of town, removal of overhead wires, and painting of the crosswalks. A mural on the Little Italy building and decorative plantings would also improve this area of town. Partners could include Canadian National Railroad to correct problems with the railroad signals and the railroad crossing and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to create a safer Main Street for pedestrians.
• The intersection with River Street and Main Street is an area where pedestrian safety also is an issue. Improvements could include murals on window panels in the downtown area, benches and trees to invite people to visit the downtown area, flower plantings to draw people down the street, widen the sidewalks on River Street to accommodate shade trees and benches, install signs to highlight the historical nature of the buildings. A walking tour with brochures available at local businesses that focuses on the village’s sandstone buildings would be a way to showcase the village’s history. The formation of a business association would benefit the downtown area greatly and would allow business owners to communicate and collaborate on suggested improvements. Farmers markets and street dances or concerts could be used to draw people to the downtown area.
• The Colfax Municipal Building is an area where the park is not used to its greatest potential. Tower Park is easily missed by passing vehicles and needs more signs to draw attention to the park. The report notes, “This small but very nice park is underutilized and could accommodate more uses to attract more visitors.” Opportunities for the park could include the posting of historic information, more outdoor library events, kid-friendly amenities, a visible connection to the river behind the park with public access, historic tours of the municipal building, a farmers’ market behind the municipal building. Other possibilities could include a community-wide bike-share program and involving teens to identify appropriate teen activities for the park and the area behind the park. Additional suggestions include aesthetic work to freshen up the park, improved pavilion lighting, and perhaps window murals.
Several common themes were identified during the workshop about downtown Colfax.
The main theme was pedestrian safety. Recommendations included the Village of Colfax working with WisDOT, the county highway department and area legislators to solve safety problems for pedestrians.
Another theme focused on signs and “wayfinding.” In addition to a large, attractive entrance sign at the village limits or near downtown to let drivers know they should slow down, signs on downtown buildings would help visitors and even residents get a better sense of what the downtown businesses have to offer. A community bulletin board near the Colfax Municipal Building also could provide information on activities and events in Colfax.
A third theme that emerged from the workshop is aesthetics and comfort. Recommendations included facade improvements for the downtown buildings, benches to encourage people to visit the downtown area, murals on buildings and planting more flowers and trees.
The report includes a wide variety of information and recommendations, including a short-term and long-term action plan for the village.
Copies of the report will be distributed to members of the Colfax Village Board, and the report is expected to be available on the village’s website within the next few weeks.