SPOONER– A $119,000 Community Development Investment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will allow the city of Spooner to transform a former post office into a green space that will link the city’s downtown with two museums, a developing railroad-themed park, and a recreational trail.
“The Railroad Memories Museum, Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum, Railroad Park and Wild Rivers Trail all draw visitors to Spooner,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “This green space will allow those visitors to easily make their way to Spooner’s Main Street businesses and serve as a wonderful starting point for hiking, biking, snowmobiling, skiing, and more on the nearby trail.”
The former post office, which will be demolished, had blocked the view of the Railroad Park from Main Street. That restricted easy access between the popular destinations. The redevelopment will create a railroad-themed gateway that will serve as the entrance for pedestrian traffic to the Railroad Park and museums.
“The location that the postal building was in was a city park prior to the construction of the post office in 1962 so we are trying to recreate what was there,” said William Marx, Spooner city administrator and the project’s principal director. “It’s going to make the whole experience of shopping downtown better. If they are in town to visit the museum, perhaps they will visit the stores.”
Development of the green space between the Railroad Park and Main Street will link the city’s main destinations, increase foot traffic, and attract more visitors.
“Targeted projects like these can have a tremendous impact, and I am thrilled to see this investment in the continued success of both downtown and the Railroad Park and museums,” said state Sen. Janet Bewley.
Many public and private partnerships have formed to support the project.
Jon Alesch of the Friends of the Railroad Park is creating the design plans. The Business Improvement District has donated $10,000 to the Railroad Park Board to develop the gateway, and the Washburn County Economic Development Corporation is working to bring more businesses to the downtown area and into the Roundhouse, located at the Railroad Park.
“This is very exciting for the city of Spooner and its residents,” state Rep. Nick Milroy said. “It’s just the beginning of cohesive efforts of private, city, county, and state partners to revitalize the downtown area for successful ventures for generations to come.”
WEDC’s Community Development Investment Grant Program supports community development and redevelopment efforts, primarily in downtown areas. The matching grants are awarded based on the ability of applicants to demonstrate the economic impact of the proposed project, including public and private partnership development, financial need, and use of sustainable downtown development practices.
From the program’s inception in 2013 to Sept. 30, 2020, WEDC awarded nearly $26.7 million in the grants to 87 communities for projects expected to generate more than $446 million in capital investments statewide.