Welcome to Heart of the City

Heart of the City is a 501(c)3 non-profit community service group (think Friends of Fort Atkinson) dedicated to increasing sustainability in our homes and communities through education, volunteer efforts, and engagement with neighbors and civic leaders.  Heart of the City puts the “you” in community.

On Monday May 23 we hosted Jim Kumon, executive director of the Incremental Development Alliance at the Community Room in the library. We invited local and regional people to hear his introductory and organizational talk in hopes of bringing an incremental development “boot camp” here. You can view Beth’s introduction, Jim’s presentation and closing remarks.

About INCREMENTAL DEVELOPMENT ALLIANCE:

“Born from a blend of grassroots activists, local entrepreneurs, business owners and small scale real estate developers, the Incremental Development Alliance (IncDev or IDA) will focus on developing the know-how to MacGyver our collective way to better places at the neighborhood scale.

To accomplish this as an organization, IncDev will:

  • Train and coach individuals, civic groups and government agencies to develop their local economy and real estate
  • Pilot projects to test techniques with local communities to tackle specific challenges
  • Connect a continent of neighborhood-level doers to celebrate success and share field notes through opportunistic alliances”

Incremental Development Alliance encourages sharing of ideas on the Facebook page Small Developers/Builders.

The summary of this introductory talk:

Twenty-eight people attended, from 6 different communities in Wisconsin. Represented were city staff, elected officials, developers, realtors, architects, planners, economic development agencies. Jim spoke and took questions for approximately 75 minutes. His message of why and how to bootstrap microscale infill building was well received.
The talk was filmed. If you care to watch request to see it through reply email. Afterwards a group of ten stayed to organize. You are welcome to join this team. We’ll be meeting monthlyish from now until the workshop in early Spring, 2017.

This fall, we will need about $1500 in sponsorship or ticket sales to host an in-depth lecture, meant to further spread the word about need for, and promise of, entrepreneurial development in this region. Ultimately, we want to find 75 people to take a training course in the nuts and bolts of infill micro scale development.

We are now building a network of

  • Builders/developers
  • Lenders/investors
  • Main Street/historic development district advocates
  • Architects/designers
  • Municipal regulatory/zoning & ordinances staff
  • Planners
  • Economic development agencies

If you have names to add to this list, let us know and we will link you to the shared spreadsheet being crowd built.

Another step is to find the resource to organize/sponsor the workshop. Jim suggested getting funding and finding sponsorships from regional economic development agencies who understand the promise of workforce training, capacity building, and jobs development IncDev holds. The committee will meet with Jefferson County Economic Development Consortium, WEDC and the Fort Chamber of Commerce to see what suggestions and leadership they can provide.

We’ll work with our committee members from Madison, Milwaukee, Monroe, Beloit, Jefferson etc to network. It will take pooling resources to reach the population needed and organize the two-stage event. Jim promised some good, shareable verbiage and a better website soon to help us market the concept.

After the talk, Jim took the time to walk through town with us. He was impressed. He stressed the economic importance of downtown, even if currently in a transition phase. Some specifics he pointed out were:

  • street trees can help us return the balance of the height of the buildings to the width of the span between them-this proportionality is part of the aesthetic that makes places feel safe and inviting for walking and conducting business. 
  • we were lucky not to have many “missing teeth” in the facade of buildings.
  • we were lucky that Main Street’s structures were all two story.
  • having just five blocks to our Main Street commercial area was a great scale for revitalization- not too much or too little.
  • knocking down buildings to add parking is counterproductive. There is plenty of parking. We need to work on access in different ways.
  • potential exists to share commercial spaces to get doors open again.
  • the riverwalk could host some commercial activity.
  • the north side, undeveloped river frontage is also loaded with value once we get Main Street revitalized
  • issue overnight on street parking permits in order to put the Sherman parking lot into play as buildable lot while simultaneously narrowing the road so drivers slow down and safety is improved
  • North Water Street could deliver a big return quickly if we focused effort on narrowing it and beautifying it from Bienfangs to the municipal building lot.
  • if we can jump start Main Street, the cross street areas will automatically rise in value as well.
  • building out beyond Main Street should be of secondary or tertiary priority as Main Street revitalization is the most productive for City help and vitality.

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SUMMER MEETINGS will be potlucks held at 6pm in various parks:

  • Sunday June 26  MushKoSeDay
  • Sunday July 17  Dorothy Carnes   CANCELLED- too many members out of town
  • Sunday August 14  Lorman Bicentennial Park

Fort Farmers Market-  a great place to support the local economy and healthy foods while enjoying community and music.  Heart of the City shares a space with the Cafe Carpe at the market, which runs Saturday mornings from 8 to noon from May through October in the parking lot across from the post office.  Proceeds support our projects. Please stop by to chat and purchase.

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The urban forestry workshop and film series are now past, but the need for a healthy urban forest and a response to the emerald ash borer remain. Information on dealing with the emerald ash borer is available at the city website.

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