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City of Waukesha will wait on potentially hiring a consultant to rebrand its downtown until next month

New organization made up of property owners opposes initiative

The red banners that depict Waukesha’s historic downtown and riverwalk have been on street poles for years. The look of these banners, however, could change with the city hiring a marketing firm to seek ideas on how to “freshen up” downtown.

The red banners that depict Waukesha’s historic downtown and riverwalk have been on street poles for years. The look of these banners, however, could change with the city hiring a marketing firm to seek ideas on how to “freshen up” downtown. Photo By Chris Kuhagen

Dec. 18, 2013

Hiring a marketing firm to rebrand downtown Waukesha will have to wait a little longer. 

For the second time in the last two weeks, the item has been postponed.

The City of Waukesha's Common Council was first scheduled to discuss and approve a contract with the Milwaukee-based Savage Solutions for $15,000 at its meeting on Dec. 3.

It was moved to Tuesday night's agenda, but just hours before the meeting City Administrator Ed Henschel removed it from the agenda.

In an email to Common Council members, Mayor Jeff Scrima, Community Development Director Steve Crandell and downtown business owner Jeff Barta, Henschel said that "due to a variety of other issues I have been focused on, I have not had a chance to review the Savage contract and discuss the rebranding of the city with the Community Development Department.

"There are a number of questions I feel need to be addressed before moving forward."

Henschel said the item will be moved to the Jan. 7 Common Council meeting at City Hall, 201 Delafield St. 

Barta was included on the email because of his feedback to Henschel and other city officials a day earlier.

Barta, a co-owner of Nice Ash Cigar Bar in downtown Waukesha, sent city officials results from a survey that was conducted by the Downtown Property Alliance, a newly-formed group of property owners.

In the email, Barta said the group was created "to represent the property owner’s interests in downtown Waukesha."

The downtown Business Improvement District, which included property owners, disbanded earlier this year.

Downtown does have the Waukesha Downtown Business Association, an organization dedicated to putting on events in downtown.

"We are in the early stages of organization with the intent of filling some of the needs no longer being met downtown with the dissolution of the Business Improvement District," Barta said. 

The BID was a taxing district in downtown, which helped in marketing, recruiting and retaining businesses and property maintenance. 

According to the survey, 26 out of 67 property owners responded in a 24-hour timeframe in advance of Tuesday's meeting. 

An overwhelming amount of respondents (83.3 percent) did not think rebranding should be done at this time and 95.6 percent of respondents thought there is a better use of the $15,000. Moreover, 96 percent said they don't feel City Hall communicates their initiatives to downtown property owners.

The survey also asked property owners to rank issues based on priority. 

Maintaining a clean and safe environment was ranked the highest, followed by recruiting and retaining residential and commercial tenants, attracting visitors to the downtown, property maintenance and better gateways to downtown. Rebranding was scored the lowest. 

"Given the results of the survey we are requesting that the city not move forward with allocating $15,000 for a consultant to rebrand downtown," Barta said. "We hope that some of the mistakes made last year that led to the property owners petitioning to disband the BID can be avoided in the future.

"We are hoping we can partner with the city on downtown issues. This can only be done with good communication. 

"Please listen to those who are most affected by this issue, the downtown property owners. It makes no sense to proceed with a consultant to rebrand downtown if it isn’t wanted by the property owners downtown."

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