Big changes are starting soon in The Village of Wauwatosa as the City begins work on a major three-year street reconstruction and streetscaping project this summer.
The City is addressing much needed infrastructure replacement and upgrades to underground utilities and other street improvements. It was determined that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that encompasses both infrastructure and streetscaping to enhance The Village as a special urban center.
One of the streetscaping goals isto reinforce The Village as a pedestrian-friendly area by creating a European-style plaza that, while maintaining vehicular traffic, utilizes traffic-calming design features creating a pedestrian-oriented space with greater public comfort and safety.
The first phase of the Village street construction is scheduled to begin in late April or early May. Work will include the areas in the Village core on State Street from Church Street to Underwood Avenue, Underwood Avenue from State to Harmonee Avenue, and Harwood Avenue from State to Root Common park. This phase of construction should be complete in November 2016.
It is important for the community to continue support the businesses during this project. “Join me in walking or riding your bike to The Village during this construction,” said Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley. “I want our businesses to stay strong during this challenging time. The Village will truly be a special place and unlike any other business center in the area.”
Planning and public input for the streetscaping component of the project started May of 2015 with a series of community meetings attended by hundreds of residents, business and property owners, and City engineers. These meetings provided significant and thoughtful feedback on key design aspects like traffic flow for vehicles, pedestrians and bikes, businesses accessibility, as well as infrastructure like paving, landscaping, lighting, curbs, sidewalks, benches and more.
Specific highlights of the streetscaping project include a Village square plaza design at the intersection of State Street, Harwood and Underwood Avenues, a canopy of accent lights over the street, wayfinding signage, new trees and plantings, and reverse angle parking on Harwood and Underwood in the Village center. (see sidebar)
While those of us in the Wauwatosa community know the charms and character of The Village first hand, the consultants who worked with the community during the design process expressed their admiration. “We’ve visited urban areas around the country and around the world, and the Wauwatosa Village is an absolute gem,” said Pete Sechler, Director of Community Solutions at GAI Consultants of Orlando, Fla. lead planner on the streetscape project. “This design and infrastructure of this project will take the Village to the next level while maintaining its authentic character and charm.”
In researching other similar projects both locally and nationally, The Village BID Board of Directors found that proper preparation, planning and clear communications are essential to business and community success during construction.
Matthew Lorbiecki, Director of Training with the Lowlands Group, which operates Cafe Bavaria and Cafe Hollander on State Street in the Village core, has followed the Streetscape project closely knowing it will impact their businesses this summer.
“The Village BID and the City have been extremely proactive in reaching out to the businesses and the community during the planning process,” Matthew said. “We understand that the construction project will be challenging for Village in the short-term, but the beautiful benefits of the streetscaping will be well worth it in the end.”
Village businesses will be looking for creative and positive ways to promote and market themselves during construction. For example, Soaps & Scents at 7600 W. Harwood Avenue recently hosted a Girl Scout cookie sale as a means of giving back to the community and raising its business profile.
Besides businesses, this summer’s construction will impact the busy Village event season including the Tosa Farmers Market, Hartfest, and Tosafest. The City staff and committees are working to coordinate the needs of all the event organizers.
The second phase of the project scheduled for 2017 includes work on State Street from Wauwatosa Avenue east to 68th Street and on Wauwatosa Avenue from State Street north to Harmonee. This phase includes renovation of the Root Common area in front of Yo Mama and Pocket Park (located in front of St. Bernard’s)
The third phase scheduled for 2018 includes the area on Harwood west of the Menomonee River to Glenview and Underwood from Harmonee north to Milwaukee Avenue.
Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley, Common Council members, the Department of Public Works / Engineering, Police, Fire and many others have been actively involved in planning and communication efforts on the project. Since the street reconstruction project was already part of the City’s regular capital improvement plan, civic and business leaders determined this would be the best opportunity to include the additional streetscape features at the same time to minimize future impacts to businesses and residents. The project also involves coordinating with the work already underway at the State Street Station residential and commercial development.
The Village and City will be actively communicating streetscape and construction updates as the project progresses online at www.wauwatosa.net/Village_Streetscaping_Project and www.wauwatosavillage.org, (please use the Notify Me feature on the website to receive notifications about updates) as well as through social media, signage, public meetings, local news outlets like Tosa Connection and more.
Streetscape plan design shines new light and more on the Village
Businesses, residents and community members worked to balance the historic nature of area while looking for new ways to make The Village the best place to live, work and celebrate. Here’s a quick look at some key streetscape design highlights:
Village core plaza and canopy lighting:
The historic location and architecture of The Village is defined by the intersections of State, Harwood and Underwood and will be enhanced as it becomes even more inviting and accessible from top to bottom. Overhead canopy lighting will shine like stars at night over a dazzling Village plaza with colored brick pavers on the street and sidewalks.
Honoring local firefly heritage
Wauwatosa takes its name from the Potawatomi native American tribal word for “firefly” due to the swarms of fireflies that gather near the Menomonee River in the summer. Certain aspects of The Village streetscaping design such as signage and decorative lighting will reflect a “firefly” visual theme.
Parking made easier:
Streets like Harwood and Underwood Avenues in the Village center will utilize reverse angle parking where vehicles will back into angled spaces. This softer version of parallel parking is designed to provide a safe and convenient form of parking on these two blocks and will provide enhanced safety with the new bike lanes for those streets. This new system will require some learning by local drivers, but will benefit traffic management in The Village.