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Broadway District holds annual town hall meeting

James Taylor, News Writer
November 14, 2012
Filed under News

Dining and  spirits were in order as the lights shined brightly on local volunteers and small business owners at Titletown Brewery in Green Bay for On Broadway Inc.’s annual town hall meeting Nov. 1.

Each year, the nonprofit organization entertains its supporters and delivers key messages to current and potential business partners during its annual meeting.

Chris Naumann, OBI executive director, delivered a State of the Street address.

“We’re maturing and we needed to shift our mission statement,” Naumann said. “Our new mission statement is clear and goal-driven. This is how we want to be recognized.”

The new mission statement reflects OBI’s aspirations as well as those of the volunteers, whose time is regularly spent cleaning sidewalks or fundraising for the organization.

According to OBI’s mission statement, sustainability, residential recruitment and promotion of the redevelopment efforts of Larsen Green will be top priorities. Larsen Green is an abandoned industrial complex that will be used for apartments and commercial space.

“Keeping ourselves relevant, keeping the neighborhood relevant and staying in the forefront as this community grows is vital,” Naumann said.

As the Broadway district morphed from a crime-ridden neighborhood into a thriving business section of Green Bay, OBI has become a leader within Green Bay’s business community.

The street has been recognized nationally as a “Great American Main Street” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This recognition was due in part to the revitalization effort OBI spearheaded from its inception in 1995.

“Achieving the status of a ‘Great American Main Street’ was quite an accomplishment,” said Tara Gokey, OBI marketing and communication coordinator.

Not long ago, the Broadway Street business district was overrun with vacancies, crumbling infrastructure and building disrepair. The revitalization effort has attracted a wide range of shops and renewed community interest in mixed-income residential apartments.

This renaissance has attracted many entrepreneurs, including Michael and Diane Bluel whom attended the town hall meeting. In a Q-and-A following the presentation, they shared plans for a business venture that would add to the eclectic nature of the Broadway Street business district.

“We’re going to create our primary residence as well as a guest house, much like how a bed-and- breakfast works,” said Michael Bluel. “Our business will include several rooms and have a modern feel and industrial look.”

Opportunities for storefronts are shrinking as demand has grown for commercial space. Diane Bluel, Michael’s wife, feels the time to grow a business in the Broadway district is now.

“We think our guests will love the stylish, exposed brick,” Diane Bluel said. “We have talked about this for years and now the timing is right, the building is right – now is the time.”

OBI has encouraged business development and engaged the Green Bay community by promoting several events that have gained in popularity throughout recent years. “Taste on Broadway,” a weekly farmers’ market and a holiday lighting ceremony are community favorites, Naumann said.

Growing demand for commercial lots has sparked interest in downtown living space as well. OBI and other community leaders intend to increase the amount of mixed-income apartments in an effort to give potential residents a downtown neighborhood where work, shopping and entertainment are within walking, biking or bussing distance.

“A lot of emphasis will be put on housing development,” Naumann said.  “People have been asking where they can live downtown.  We want to give them more than the high-end and low-end.  We need to reach that middle-range market.”

Business owners, volunteers and supporters clapped and cheered several times during Naumann’s speech.

“How can you not be excited about what is coming up for OBI?”  Diane Bluel said. “The possibilities are tremendous.”