Business and investment growth, increasing numbers of visitors and the beginning of construction of the much-anticipated Fox Cities Exhibition Center were highlights of 2016 celebrated at the annual meeting of Appleton Downtown, Inc. (ADI) along with its Business Improvement District (BID) and Creative Downtown Inc..
The March 15 breakfast event, held at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel, was a switch-up from ADI’s traditional evening dinner and awards event. The awards celebration will be moved to fall instead of being part of the annual meeting event.
“We were excited for the new breakfast meeting format and hopeful it would allow us the opportunity to share the information with a larger audience of business owners,” said ADI Executive Director Jennifer Stephany.
Tundraland was the star sponsor of the event.
“It has been a tremendously exciting two years to be president of Appleton Downtown, Inc.,” said John Peterson, ADI Board president. “We have progressed through the parking study, the mobility study, and now the comprehensive plan.
“With the construction of the Exhibition Center and the excitement over the potential mixed use development of the bluff site, the future of Downtown is definitely on the move.”
Peterson, of Peterson, Berk and Cross, also lauded the ADI staff for its work to expand events and special features such as the summer concerts, farm markets, public art projects and more offerings that he said add to the claim of Appleton as “one great place.”
Looking over the organization’s accomplishments in 2016, Board President-Elect Will Weider of The Weiders, LLC, said, “The newly completed Downtown plan gives us a road map to follow. In particular, I am excited about ADI’s role in the launch of the Fox Cities Exhibition Center, developing the riverfront, and making Downtown an even more trendsetting and fun place to live.”
Weider credited Peterson’s leadership, saying, “I am so impressed by the progress ADI has made during John Peterson’s tenure. I am honored to be a part of ADI and to help build upon that great work.”
Stephany highlighted the organization’s role in the nine-month process to update the City’s long-range plan, which drew input from 1,500 participants and more than 2,000 unique comments. The parking and mobility studies as well as ADI’s parking advocacy efforts supported changes in the City’s Downtown parking ramps, and ADI will continue to play a role in the integration of an Appleton parking app currently in development. A State of Downtown event scheduled for May 31 will present the updated plan and highlight opportunities.
At the event, Stephany focused on several programs that will be priorities this year.
“Keeping Downtown clean is a constant concern and challenge,” Stephany noted. “We found a partner with Riverview Gardens Service Works program and the City of Appleton. The CARE TEAM — Clean Access Refresh Evaluate — was launched last summer and we are grateful and excited about the improvements.” She also provided details of the Flex Bell initiative and the We Welcome All campaign.
Dates, themes and special features of the popular Art On The Town Series and the Summer Concert Series were both unveiled at the annual meeting.
“We’ll be adding Creative Kids children activities prior to the June, July, and August Art On The Town installments from 3 to 5 p.m. in Houdini Plaza,” Stephany announced. “These activities are made possible through our Downtown partners: Building For Kids Children’s Museum, Trout Museum of Art, Appleton Public Library and Appleton YMCA.
“This summer also marks the 25th anniversary of the popular Downtown Appleton Farm Market! We are planning a full slate of fun events and activities to celebrate including a $25 gift certificate drawing each week.”
Creative Downtown Appleton also has new initiatives on its agenda for the coming year geared to enhancing the Downtown’s appeal to a wide range of residents, Stephany noted.
“On our horizon for Creative Downtown is a pet friendly campaign,” she pointed out. “As we add a focus on downtown living we know there are amenities we can help add to the district to welcome all kinds of families. We are hoping to add waste stations, leash hook ups and other features to make people and their pets feel at home in the downtown.”
The annual report released at the meeting states that 13 new businesses opened in the district in 2016 while many others relocated or expanded, and the Downtown business district boasts an 81 percent occupancy rate. The BID reports a total value of $121,300,200 on 227 assessable units. Through providing economic development support, ADI awarded 10 recruitment grants totaling $9,894; 21 business façade grants amounting to $26,587, and 28 marketing grants equaling $6,992.
Through events like the year-round Farm Market, Ladies Shopping Days, Art On the Town, Soup Walk, Death By Chocolate, parades and holiday festivities, the downtown welcomed an estimated 500,000 visitors at some 126 community events in 2016, and the popular Downtown Trolley transported 6,579 riders. A Downtown Parade of Homes event will be a new feature added this year.
ADI’s social media engagement expanded, recording 187,814 website visits, 51 percent of which originated on mobile devices. Its Instagram engagement grew by 235 percent. Print media outreach included distribution of 75,000 Downtown Guides, coupon books, bag stuffers and coasters.
Details of ADI’s ongoing efforts, special events and business opportunities are available on the organization’s website, www.appletondowntown.org and on Facebook and Twitter. Specific inquiries may be directed via email to Lynn@appletondowntown.org.
ADI is a non-profit advocacy source for the businesses and merchants of Downtown Appleton, presenting the weekly Downtown Appleton Indoor Winter Farm Market and a host of other events. For more information about ADI and/or a complete listing of upcoming Downtown happenings, visit ADI’s website, www.appletondowntown.org, or check them out on Facebook at the Appleton Downtown or Downtown Appleton Food & Fun Fan Pages, or on Twitter @downtowncool and @dwtnappleton.