RDA, city to put emphasis on river

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The Mullet River will be getting some extra attention this year.

City Administrator Brian Yerges told the Redevelopment Authority Thursday that the city is moving ahead with a comprehensive study of the entire river corridor in the city, from State 23 on the north side to County PP on the south side.

The RDA heard from its subcommittee responsible for one part of that corridor, the Mullet River Walkway, at the meeting.

“The idea is to make the river a place people want to come to,” Riverwalk Development Subcommittee chair Jan Cecka told the RDA members.

“The purpose is to make that something that will attract people to the riverwalk and then downtown,” Cecka continued.

While his subcommittee is interested in the entire river corridor, their primary focus is on the area from Eastern Avenue to Stafford Street, and then from Stafford to Milwaukee Street.

There is a connection to the Riverwalk from the Old Plank Road Trail along State 23, Cecka said, but that “meanders through neighborhoods” before reaching the Riverwalk in the area of the Mill Pond dam.

Any effort to extend the Riverwalk north from the Mill Pond along the river would have to go across a number of private properties, he added.

The Mill Pond dam, a prime feature of the river and the city, will be one of the focuses of the Mullet River corridor study group the city plans to create this year, Yerges told the RDA members.

The dam is considered a high hazard dam by state Department of Natural Resources officials, Yerges reported. The DNR is currently conducting a study of the dam’s status and future, he added.

“We’ll probably get a letter (from the DNR) that says basically that we have 10 years to upgrade our dam,” Yerges said of the likely outcome of the DNR study.

“When you’re talking about long-term plans, 10 years is not that long, when you’re talking about what could be multi-million dollar projects,” Yerges said in explaining the need for the corridor study.

He listed other issues along the corridor that will need to be addressed in the future, such as dredging the Mill Pond, maintaining and repairing the downtown parking ramp, upgrading electric service to Mill Street businesses along the Mullet, development of Stayer Park on the river, extension of the Riverwalk to Meyer Park and perhaps beyond, and more.

“It will have to be a community decision what we want to put our funding toward improving,” Yerges pointed out.

He noted that several different groups have interest in those various river corridor issues, such as the Park Board and the Mill Pond Lake Association and that those interests don’t always match.

Cecka noted that such is the case with the Riverwalk and the Mill Pond Lake Association. “We certainly need to work with them, but some of our goals are different.”

Cecka also said his subcommittee is looking for a way to generate revenue to fi- nance cleanup, maintenance, improvement and extension of the Riverwalk.

“We need like-minded people in the community to help us and money,” he explained.

Yerges reported that the deal to sell the city-owned vacant building at 31 E. Mill St. has fallen through.

The RDA last month approved the sale of the building to Steven Hobbs, a New Zealand based developer who has rehabilitated other buildings in Sheboygan County.

Yerges said Hobbs asked out of the agreement after tax issues arose over the sale and the city’s conditions.

As for the vacant 133 E. Mill St. building, Yerges said preliminary design work for rehabilitation is continuing. That includes several alternatives for creating apartments on the second floor.

“Hopefully, things will progress to the point where plans are completed by May or June and we will have an idea of what it will take to rehabilitate that building,” Yerges told the RDA.

Downtown Manager Randy Schwoerer said planning is continuing for a number of promotional events for downtown Plymouth this year. They will include a taste of Plymouth event, a touch a car/truck event, an historic weekend in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Plymouth Historical Society, and more.

He said the Downtown Plymouth Association continues to meet regularly and grow stronger.

He also reported that the “Around the Corner with John McGivern” show on Milwaukee Public Television that featured Plymouth in January continues to draw new visitors to downtown.

“We still hear it from new visitors,” Schwoerer said of the program’s impact. “We just need to capitalize on it.”

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