City staff will play a vital role in the success of this project. While community stakeholders need to lead the direction and vision, city staff will be responsible not only for implementation but also for understanding the available levers to pull so that these Hub visions can come to life. The success of this strategic plan will correlate directly to the capacity of city staff and their knowledge of trends, opportunities, and programs within their fields and departments. The Hub Associations will set the tone; city staff will provide the expertise to get them activated.
Because the proposed Hub Associations and Placemaking Commission will be government-chartered entities, key funding for strategic implementation will be public resources. A stated goal of the Hub Associations is to better engage citizens with the City of Stevens Point. As such, Atlas believes that the direct report for the implementation coordinator role should be a city official. This could be the Community Development Director or another department head.
The strategic coordinator position itself could be located at a public entity, non-profit, public-private partnership organization, or a community-based operation. Before a new position is created, it will be useful to determine if existing staff can serve this role.
The Community Development department, as currently staffed, is limited in its ability to take on additional responsibilities. Consideration could be given to bringing on a Neighborhood Planner whose purpose would include staffing the Placemaking Commission and Hub Associations. This staff person should be active in the recruitment, advertising, and implementation of various neighborhood-level associations and can assist with the housing programs the City offers.
Alternatively, the city could contract the strategic implementation coordination role to an outside partner, either an individual or an organization. This person or entity would need to be sufficiently engaged and respected in the community to garner the trust of neighborhood leaders, businesses, institutional representatives, and other stakeholders who will be engaged in the Hub Associations and Placemaking Commission.
Additional responsibilities specific to city departments are described below.
The Airport will generally be removed from this conversation although some of the land around the airport and well fields may have value as recreation space, and general conversations about regional transportation and stronger connection points to bigger cities will always be valuable to this work.
The Clerk will be responsible for ensuring the Hub Association process is transparent and well communicated, with agendas and minutes from these meetings posted for public consumption and sent to Common Council members and relevant city staff.
The Clerk will also play a role in helping with special events and it’s process.
The Community Development Director will own this plan and will provide oversight and coordination among departments, Hub Associations, and any partner organizations involved in this process. Many of the departments that are key to successful implementation (economic development, neighborhood development, historic preservation, planning, and zoning) already fall under Community Development.
Community Development has its own areas of expertise as well and will play a key role in ensuring that planning and zoning for these Hubs support the visions set by Hub Associations. It may be helpful to look at trends in Mixed-use Zoning or to consider what communities like Minneapolis are doing to get rid of exclusionary zoning to support less socio-economic segregation and greater diversity in their neighborhoods. Other programs that activate historic properties or help to relocate businesses to free up space for housing, commercial, and recreation use in alignment with these plans will fall to community development.
Community Development will also have to help the Common Council set priorities and determine funding support for these projects. It may be helpful to look at the tiered approach that Memphis used in Memphis 3.0 and Accelerate Memphis to determine incentive/funding priorities. This approach ranked their anchor projects and neighborhoods on a three-level scale (struggling, stable, thriving) and put greater funding toward areas of their community that ranked lower on that scale. Projects in thriving parts of the city still received funding but at a lower percentage of the total project.
The Placemaking Commission and Hub Associations will need to collaborate closely with the Comptroller/Treasurer to ensure that proposed programs and projects are financially feasible, and that the City of Stevens Point has the capacity necessary to fund, support, or incentivize appropriate projects that emerge from Hub Visioning. The lack of public funding to support high-priority community projects came up regularly in conversations with community stakeholders. This is likely to be a continuing challenge given strict revenue restrictions. In addition to general budgeting, this charge will also include exploring what peer or mentor communities are doing to establish funding programs that support this type of investment.
In that vein, Atlas recommends that the city pursue a few programs already employed by communities doing leading placemaking work. First, public-private partnership models distribute the burden of resourcing priority projects and programs across government, the private sector, institutional, and non-profit interests, ensuring that no single partner feels they are bearing too great a funding responsibility. It also compels local interests to have “skin in the game” before the City of Stevens Point invests in any projects that come out of the Hub Visioning process. Janesville’s ARISE Now plan and the development of Green Bay’s Titletown hub are both great examples of P3 investment.
Establishing funding sources, however, and a process for community development projects to access that funding is necessary to demonstrate the city’s commitment to these efforts. One option also comes from Green Bay, whose Redevelopment Authority unanimously approved a resolution dedicating 1% of the assessed value of a project supported by public assistance to public art. The “percent for arts” program is growing in popularity. In recent reporting by Forbes magazine, 13 of 15 of the U.S. cities rated most livable and all 15 of the fastest-growing cities have these ordinances.
To expand the reach of this program, Stevens Point may want to consider a “percent for place” program instead that extends investment beyond public art to also include wayfinding signage, public seating, winter cities investments, and other projects that strengthen the sense of place within these Hubs.
Economic Development, in partnership with the Comptroller/Treasurer, will play a key role in leveraging incentive programs and working with developers and community partners to execute projects in alignment with Hub Visions.
Incremental Development and Gentle Density may offer approaches that expand opportunities to work with local contractors and developers to complete more culturally appropriate housing projects that complement the existing infrastructure and vibe of these Hubs. Hub Visions can inform bids the Economic Development department puts out to developers and the adoption of these plans can help grow confidence that these developers will see their projects approved when submitted.
The focus group on innovation and entrepreneurship also mentioned the lack of seed funding, R&D funds, and venture capital to support local entrepreneurs trying to grow and scale businesses. The City of Charlotte worked with private partners to develop the Charlotte Angel Fund to ensure that seed and scale monies were available for local entrepreneurs. Other programs like micro-loans and grants or place-based investing may make more sense given the size of Stevens Point’s innovation ecosystem. Looking at other public investments, from free high-speed internet to co-working spaces to economic gardening to empty storefront competitions, will grow Stevens Point’s reputation for innovation and make it easier to fill new commercial developments in this Hub.
Fire & EMS
In addition to general issues of public safety and fire codes, the Stevens Point Fire Department has a role to play in helping Hub Associations understand the use of heat sources and public fire pits and places to extend the seasonal use of outdoor gathering spaces within these Hubs.
The City of Edmonton has put out Winter Cities Design Guidelines that would be smart to integrate into Hub Visioning given the length of winter in Stevens Point.
Media – Radio / TV / Web
As part of this effort, it may be worth thinking about updating the city media department to include a stronger social media presence to ensure that residents have access to community information through the channels they are using. The Media department can also play a role in developing branding for these hubs and setting up any web presence these Hubs need.
Even if not designated as the lead for this project, the Neighborhood Improvement coordinator will be another cornerstone department to this strategic plan. The value of these Hubs is their proximity to residential neighborhoods that will have walkable access to the amenities that shape these Hubs. To maximize impact, hub visioning should complement goals for the neighborhoods around them and respond to housing needs identified through Rent Ready and other housing programs.
Parks, Recreation & Forestry
The Memphis Parks Director cited strategic investments in and improvements to their parks as a tool for building community buy-in for Accelerate Memphis. Parks, Recreation, and Forestry will play an essential role in the identity of these Hubs, both in terms of green spaces and landscaping within the Hubs themselves and in terms of proximate recreational amenities that add identity and adventure to these Hubs.
If the strategic implementation is solely the responsibility of volunteers, it will not be successful or sustainable. There must be professional staff responsible for administering the strategic plan, the Hub Associations, and the subsequent projects revealed through this process. Personnel will have to work with existing staff and the Common Council to determine if this work falls within existing roles or requires new positions to coordinate strategic efforts, communicating strategic goals and accomplishments to stakeholders and constituency groups, and advising elected officials, city staff, and partner representatives on the selection, resourcing, and support of local placemaking projects.
In addition to informing hub visions with regard to general public safety, engagement from the Stevens Point Police Department in continued conversations about equity, diversity, and inclusion will impact efforts to increase the diversity of Stevens Point through this plan.
Understanding how property values change will be a key measure of the success of this program. Ideally, in-fill development, historical reuse, and neighborhood activation should increase city revenues without adding significant cost in new services and infrastructure. The Assessor also is an important resource for tracking affordability and gentrification.
Walkability, bike-ability, parking, and other public works infrastructure will be essential to achieving a plan that strengthens the connections between these Hubs and their surrounding neighborhoods. The public works department will play a key role in designing and engineering these.
The Transit department will play a role in ensuring all Hubs are accessible through current or modified public transportation routes. They also may explore more contemporary programs like scooter or bike shares that make it easy to move from Hub to Hub.
Water, Sewer, Stormwater
The Water department in Stevens Point is known for its innovation and green investments. Incorporating sustainable practices in visible investments in these Hubs will elevate the “green” reputation of Stevens Point and can help with beautification.