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Revamped downtown Oconomowoc waterfront plan calls for wide open spaces

Nov. 7, 2012

City of Oconomowoc- City Administrator Diane Gard estimated about 80 people turned out Monday night to get a look at a revamped plan for the Fowler Lake waterfront. The new plan knocks down buildings along Main Street, expands the village green and enhances the area with expansive landscaping into a park area with the lake as the centerpiece.

City leaders have discussed expanding Village Green all the way to the lakeshore to create an expanded public gathering place downtown with views of the lake. They recently contracted with Community Design Solutions (CDS), which collaborates with University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate students to redo a plan to improve the Fowler Lake waterfront. Monday was the first opportunity to share CDS' work with the community.

Eileen Gillespie of Oconomowoc was enthusiastic about the renderings.

"I love the concept of the park. It's phenomenal." Gillespie said the plans remind her of New York City's Bryant Park.

"It's serendipity," she said of the Gotham-area green space. "I feel the same about this; it's a happy surprise and lifts the spirits. It would be amazing if we could do this," she said.

Hollie Schick expressed one concern about the project.

"I'll miss the boardwalk. I understand it takes more maintenance, but it adds charm," she said.

Gillespie agreed. "I hope they reconsider that," she said of the boardwalk.

Oconomowoc resident Scott Donald said he is "cautiously optimistic" about the waterfront designs.

"I'm always concerned about land swaps and always concerned about the lakefront," he explained. "I'm concerned that the condo project is sold and not empty and the impact it will have on the water," he added.

Mayor Jim Daley pursued a reworking of a enhanced design of the area in conjunction with other downtown projects on the slate - Fowler Lake Village, the condo project Donald referred to, and Worthington Apartments which are planned to be constructed across from the new community center starting next year.

City Planner Adam Sayre said the next step is to take the plans to various committees for continued discussion and feedback. It will then need to be reapproved by formally amending the city's plans to include the revisions. Sayre said this mostly likely won't happen until early 2013.

As far as what the project might cost, Sayre said CDS is working on a rough estimate he hopes to share at the Nov. 20 Common Council meeting. A timeline for the project has not been established but Sayre said it is a priority since the project will enhance downtown.

If you'd like to view the plans, visit the city's website, www.oconomowoc-wi.gov.

- Reporter Paige Brunclik contributed to this story

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