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”) which encourages sustainable development, the preservation of existing and treasured civic characteristics, and active participation of the citizenry.  It is devoted 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.

NEXT MEETING is Monday April 17 at Beth Gehred’s house, 500  N Main Street, Fort Atkinson. Potluck at 6 pm, meeting at 7 pm. On the agenda will be updates about the Heart of the City solar site assessment for private properties in Fort Atkinson, a recap of highlights from the Strong Towns Transportation Summit (including a demonstration for how to slow traffic in pedestrian areas), and updates on city council elections and votes that matter to our sustainability, self-sufficiency and resiliency as a city.

INCREMENTAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SERIES-  (Series just finished.)

Heart of the City will be sponsoring a series on economic development from the developers’ eye view.  We invite you to hear the stories and insights of developers who have renovated buildings in Fort Atkinson and Jefferson, and make your own contributions to the conversation. 

Come for one or all of the 3-part series taking place in Jefferson County. When investment in Wall Street seems particularly turbulent, investing in the place and people you know best makes sense if you know what you are doing. Learn from those that do, network with those that do, and become one who does. It starts here.

Join the conversation at the following dates and times:

January 27, noon – 4 pm, Fort Atkinson Cold Spring Design featuring speakers Conor Nelan, Rachel Nelan, Craig Ellsworth, with tours of Cold Spring Design, the Fort Atkinson Club, and the Soulful Toad, all in downtown Fort Atkinson  (Obviously, this event has passed but it was a great success! Photos to be posted soon.)

February 23, 8 am – 1 pm, Jefferson Area Business Center

March 8, 5:00 pm – 8:30 pm, Jefferson, Tea Tree Wellness Studio

Registration is open here

northeast-main-fort riverwalk-beauty-spot

Heart of the City believes in an incremental approach to economic development. Cities have been building incrementally for thousands of years successfully. Building places in small steps and with little additions that are carefully timed makes sense. City dwellers learned to deliver the new spaces that a settlement needs and in a manner that can be absorbed comfortably and dynamically.

After World War II, America embarked on a huge experiment to build cities differently. Instead of adding on bit by bit, they went large scale, opening up acres of land that could be accessed primarily by automobile. These lovely places required much more extensive, and therefore expensive, public infrastructure investment but generated such economic activity that businesses boomed and payback seemed assured. It was wildly successful for its first few generations, resulting in a kind of lifestyle that became the new, and comfortable, norm.

However, with the passage of several generations, the downsides of this large-scale development have started to show. Cities of all sizes and across all states are experiencing budget crises, even bankruptcies, as road and fresh water and sewer water infrastructure ages and there is nowhere near the tax base to maintain or replace it. The internet and on-line shopping have changed patterns of behavior in completely unexpected ways making brick-and-mortar retail increasingly tenuous. A build up of greenhouse gases caused by our modern transportation, housing, and farming methods is disrupting our weather patterns.

Unfortunately, our building codes and city ordinances make this change back to commonsense all but impossible.

Some entrepreneurial and hard-working developers have managed to overcome increasing odds, however, to still make a business case for small town development in a manner that is good for all.

This experiment is proving to have downsides that are gargantuan. Time to go back to our traditions, of building what we need, when we need it, in a modest manner that is sustainable. The practitioners of this type of development are here to tell their story in Building Strength: A Three Part Conversation.  

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, and on the first Saturday of January through April from 9 to noon at the lower level of the Fort Atkinson Club.  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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