First Downtown Revitalization Project Realized
With positive reception from the downtown advisory committee and a supportive nod from the board of the Watertown Development Company (WDC), downtown Watertown will soon realize its first revitalization project.
Sabrina Valsvig, owner of Sunshine & Co., will be moving her business from 17 1st Avenue SE, to a larger space to support her growing business.
The move is part of the WDC’s strategic initiative aimed at creating renewed interest in locating businesses and people into the heart of downtown.
Chris Schilken, Executive Director of the WDC, said, “This is the first of many more developments to come. Our goal is to make strategic investments in downtown Watertown that will fill empty buildings and repurpose available space, which in turn will attract new workforce, tourists, shoppers, and bring renewed life to the uptown area.”
With unified support from the City of Watertown, Watertown Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce, the WDC launched their downtown revitalization initiative in November 2018.
The Downtown Advisory Committee was formed soon after to review potential initiatives and make recommendations to the WDC Board for final approval. The advisory committee is made up of several independent business owners who are in downtown Watertown, Julie Knutson, President of the Watertown Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Tim Sheehan, President of the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce.
Investments in the downtown projects are made by the WDC with money received from Dakota Resources, which allows small businesses and entrepreneurs access to capital to grow and expand their business. The funds are then used to allow the WDC to structure lease-purchase agreements on newly acquired buildings, providing a path to ownership.
Schilken said, “Investment in the revitalization of our downtown attracts workforce, attracts tourists, creates jobs, and increases property values, all of which benefit our economy and keep Watertown moving forward.”
The WDC’s downtown revitalization initiative also accommodates local needs in a way that might not be possible in a completely privately funded project. “Funding from the WDC helps fill the gap to make these projects a reality and overcome unique issues that occur in downtown environments, such as accessibility, affordability, remediation, restoration and preservation,” said Schilken.
Sunshine & Co. is expected to open in April after improvements are made at their new location at 18 East Kemp Avenue, and have expanded hours Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The retail store carries clothing for women and children, jewelry, and home décor.
Several other downtown projects are currently under consideration. The downtown advisory committee and WDC Board hope to have final approvals and the details of these projects in the coming weeks.