WATERTOWN, S.D. – Downtown Watertown will see some changes in the new year thanks to an initiative being launched by local business leaders.
With unified support from the City of Watertown, Watertown Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce, the Watertown Development Company is launching a downtown revitalization initiative aimed at creating renewed interest in locating businesses and people downtown.
Chris Schilken, Executive Director of the Watertown Development Company, said the goal is to make strategic investments that will create a unified downtown and improve the quality of life for residents in the area. “Success in economic development is increasingly becoming more about creating walkable, and connected places. Investment in revitalization creates jobs, workforce, increases property values and attracts tourists, all of which are economic benefits to the cities making those investments.”
Initiatives like this are nothing new to economic development groups like the Watertown Development Company. The impact of downtown revitalization on local and state economies is well documented. Having a unique quality of place plays a strong role in attracting residents, visitors, and businesses. Many rural economic development corporations across the United States are engaged in revitalization efforts to renew downtown areas and restore them to their former distinction as the center of community activity.
To move the initiative forward, the WDC has formed a committee that will collaborate with WDC staff on research, ideas and presentation of recommendations to the WDC Board of Directors. The group will also be utilizing an advisory committee made up of downtown business leaders that will draw from their input, research, and plans to help them develop a wide range of ideas and concepts to reposition downtown as a community destination. Mayor Sarah Caron is one of a handful of community leaders who will serve on the downtown revitalization committee. She said, “We are excited to listen to ideas from our downtown business owners to re-establish downtown as a center of activity for our youth, adults, families and seniors. We want it to be a place that reflects the qualities, characteristics, and activities that have historically defined Watertown, a community that gathers morning, noon and night. We will be looking to downtown business owners for their recommendations on how to build on what we have to create something even more appealing.” One thing that will be necessary to the success of the initiative is continued investment – which means committing the WDC’s resources strategically. Thanks to the supporters of the current GROW Watertown five-year strategic plan, investment will come directly from the Watertown Development Company, which in turn will generate several positive impacts, including a decrease in the building vacancy rate.
“This initiative is an economic opportunity for Watertown. Creating a vibrant, walkable neighborhood will help attract and retain talented people and the companies that want to hire them, and make Watertown stand out as a destination to dine, shop, visit, invest, or move to,” said Schilken.
The downtown advisory committee will be formed between now and the end of the year, and the committee is expected to meet in January to discuss the first round of proposed action plans.