Cheese center project making good progress

IT CAN BE A long, careful, painstaking process to make a great cheese. And it can be a long, arduous, intensive process to age that great cheese just right.

And the same is true for creating a cheese center befitting the Cheese Capital of the World.

The Redevelopment Authority, working with city officials, private donors and the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp., is making great progress in its long, involved process of converting an abandoned, dilapidated downtown building at 133 E. Mill St. into just such a proper cheese center.

The RDA earlier this month approved the hiring of the first consultant for the project, Retailworks of Mequon, to help design the displays and fittings for the retail cheese store that will be a big part of the proposed cheese center.

Retailworks comes with an impressive resume of retail store design efforts. Locally, they were the design force behind the new gift shop at Road America, which has proven to be highly popular and a huge commercial success.

The RDA has also selected former Downtown Manager Randy Schwoerer as their point man for the efforts to develop the cheese center/cheese counter at 133 E. Mill St.

Schwoerer is an excellent choice for that key job. He already has demonstrated his creativity and energy in his efforts over the last two years in downtown Plymouth.

With his expertise, contacts, experience and enthusiasm, the project should receive just the positive jolt it needs to get going right.

With the financing package complete and in place for the $1.85 million project, things should start to get moving again at 133 E. Mill St.

The first evidence of that should come soon when work gets underway on the conversion of the upper floor of the building into apartments and the construction of a new garage for those apartments.

The apartments will provide a good portion of the income to support the overall building, along with the proceeds from the cheese center museum and the cheese counter store.

With the SCEDC on board to provide management for the building over the first five years of operations before it is finally turned back over to the city – a necessary procedure for a portion of the financing package – the pieces are certainly coming into place.

It will be a welcome and needed addition to downtown and to the entire city. It should draw more visitors and shoppers to downtown Plymouth – already a welcome destination – and provide a ripple effect for all of its neighbors along Mill Street.

As RDA Chair Lee Gentine pointed out, 15 percent of the cheese consumed in the United States spends at least some time here in Plymouth. That’s something that needs to celebrated and demonstrated for visitors and residents alike.

A center to help introduce and educate people to the history and heritage of Plymouth’s leading industry has been long needed. Plymouth Arts Center Executive Director Donna Hahn observed that one of the major questions they get from visitors to the PAC is where they can go to learn about the cheese industry in Plymouth and the surrounding area.

The answer to that question is getting ever closer at 133 E. Mill St.

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