Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Process

Making lasting changes downtown are going to take some time. If I didn’t believe in the future of Columbus I wouldn’t have taken my first risk downtown ten years ago. This town has huge potential. I felt that way ten years ago. I feel that way today. I wish wasn’t talking about potential ten years later but here we are.

We had a meeting Monday night with the CDA. A step in the process. It was an interesting meeting and I would guess everyone in attendance would probably agree with that. I learned about buy in. Hopefully we learned about the importance of a vibrant downtown. I learned it’s a process and things don’t happen overnight. Maybe we learned that we need to face problems if we want to solve them. I learned I have friends in Columbus that I want to keep.

Downtown Columbus could be incredible. That is why I am so passionate about our downtown. Columbus is one of the most intact historic small towns in Wisconsin. I know crap like that because I have this curse of being observant. Do you remember when someone came here to make a movie? Seems like that was a long time ago and it's neatly packed away forever as part of Columbus history.

Why did this happen here? For those of you that witnessed the filming of Public Enemies it was maybe the coolest thing ever in downtown Columbus. There are a lot of reasons it happened here.  For one thing someone that gets paid a lot of money saw something in this downtown that we take for granted every day.

People that don’t live here notice the beauty and historic integrity of our downtown. It is very unique but do we see it? These days it tends to be a bit overshadowed by vacant storefronts and “For Rent” signs but that can change.

Hollywood isn’t going to come in and change it for us again though. It’s our town and it's our turn. We need to change it ourselves. The only thing better than the movie would be if that excitement could be recreated every day in our downtown. I’m confident it could but things like that are not easy.

Click on some of these photos to see them in a larger perspective. We have great bones. Movie set bones. Michael Mann saw it and the time has come for us to see it too. This happened here because downtown Columbus is special.

To fix this we all need people to be a part of the community of Columbus. If you are a business owner here we need you to be a part of the business community. I’ve not always been good at that but we need to change too. We are a team with more in common than not but we often get caught up in our differences instead of what keeps us here. Columbus has the ability to move forward as a proud city but it will be a group effort.

What makes a star? Charisma, determination, talent, good looks, luck?  We have all that but this town needs to capitalize on it.

So all in all the CDA meeting went fine but we have some big hurdles to cross. Has doing this blog rubbed some people the wrong way? Sure. I guess expected that but it's not the intent. All I’m trying to do is open people's eyes. We tend to take things for granted right in our backyard. We have the makings of an outstanding downtown and a successful destination community.  It takes synergy to make that happen.

We need to fix it, promote it and work to insure the success of our neighbor. If they don’t succeed neither do we. I feel pretty confident there could be some positive things for Columbus coming from the frustrations of the process.  That is why we do it.


  1. I'm glad you're back! and of course, I agree with you- but we have to pick one thing to start with- so what is that? It's overwhelming to look at the whole picture..it's like cleaning out the junk I have accumulated over the years- where to start? Pretty soon I just give up because I am overwhelmed! So, one thing at a time...one step at a time, one day at a time...one person at a time.
    And don't forget Columbus Main Street is still here! We are trying but we need more help! If you want to help- call me! 920-623-5325

  2. Kim - Happy to be back. There are some positive things happening on the City/CDA front. None of this is going to be easy but if we care about the historic business district it all needs to happen. I'm not going to get into details at this point. I think it makes sense for all business owners and business organizations to get together. At that point I would guess the City/CDA will talk about their vision and I'm hopeful that we can make some things happen.

  3. Just wondering... What does CDA stand for? And what is the difference between CDA and Columbus Main Street?

  4. CDA= Columbus Development Authority, a city government group and I'm not even really sure what their purpose or mission is. You could call one of their members...
    Columbus Main Street- a Historic Commercial Downtown revitalization group affiliated with the National Historic Trust (www.preservationnation.org)
    Each State has it's own entity, cities must go through a rigorous application to be accepted into the program. The group is funded entirely through donations and sponsorships- no state or city money. We are here to help preserve the Historic Downtown and have some services available for those businesses in the district.
    Feel free to call me with any questions- Kim Bates, 920-623-5325.

  5. I'll take a stab at the CDA. Community Development Authority is an economic development arm of a city government. It is designed to be loosely tied to a municipality so that it can function without ties that restrict municipalities in putting deals together. From what I can tell the Columbus CDA is focused on development projects throughout the city and they can assist with things like site selection, development plans, financing and in general working on putting deals together that benefit Columbus. I think they are one of the many bosses that Steve Sobiek reports to.