Cuba City Presidential Plaza Wins State Main Street Program Award
The City of Cuba City has been recognized for its recent Presidential Plaza development with a Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Main Street Program Award for Downtown Innovation.
The residents of Cuba City have long expressed their desire for a downtown gathering place. This was noted in the City’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan Update as well as recent high school student surveys. Whether old or young, the community sought a downtown area to enjoy a cup of coffee, or to just “hang out.”
Partnering with the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s (UW-P) Senior Design Team program brought the services of four senior engineering students into the project in early 2020. The Design Team provided a vision for how the area around the City’s Presidential Caboose on Main Street could be enhanced to create a community space, while also bringing traffic to the City’s downtown businesses. Working through the many challenges of Covid 19, the team also assisted in a grant application for AARP’s Community Challenge Grant, a program seeking innovative approaches to downtown revitalization that also has multi-generational aspects. The team created a vision for the space that included new green space with trees, seating, games, a new bicycle rack and a Bluetooth sound system. The Cuba City Telephone Company provided free Wi-Fi service while the
UW-P Art Department added a 4,200 square foot, interactive ground mural of the Mississippi River. The mural also includes a salute to the Covid 19 Frontline Workers and a Presidential Hopscotch area. Another key item was the installation of three ADA Compliant sidewalk ramps enabling individuals with disabilities to more easily visit the Plaza.
AARP received over 2,800 applications for the Grant and Cuba City was very pleased to be among the 184 communities nationwide to be awarded funding for their project.
Between the pandemic and the resulting shortages of construction and electronic equipment, the project did not progress as smoothly as first envisioned. “With considerable help from our many partners, we were able to complete the project before the December 18th deadline from AARP. AARP proved to be an outstanding partner, as were the many other organizations that assisted us in the project,” stated Mayor John Van De Wiel. “Among the many partners were UW-P, Cuba City High School, and the City of Presidents Committee. Thanks to the generosity of these groups as well as the Telephone Company, no City funds were required to complete the project,” added Van De Wiel. Other partners included several local businesses and the students and residents who assisted in the project.
Cuba City is understandably proud of this Award as it was when the City won the same Award in 2017 for its downtown improvement efforts. That project included a highly successful façade improvement program for downtown businesses, new streetlamps and planters. Cuba City is also well known for its “Parade of Presidents” Presidential Shields that adorn the streetlamps and were recently featured along with the Plaza in an ABC News segment out of Madison, Wisconsin.
The City of Presidents Committee is a local philanthropic organization that maintains the City’s Presidential theme among other activities. They were a key partner in the Plaza project, providing both guidance and funding for the mural.
Cuba City is proud of its Main Street which can boast no empty storefronts and its daily average of 5,200 vehicles per day.