By Jennifer Stephany
I was honored to serve as a member of the Appleton Public Library’s community advisory committee last summer. There, I learned more about the key role libraries play in the economic development of communities and their downtowns. Forward-thinking communities like Seattle, Denver, Nashville and San Antonio have already shown how rejuvenated public libraries make healthy, economically vibrant cities.
Recently, Appleton Downtown, Inc., conducted workshops where community members identified downtown areas with potential for improvement. The proposed bluff site appeared in the top five areas with the most potential for improvement. Why? There’s strong potential for synergy between the library, the YMCA, the residency clinic and Lawrence University.
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We also see the direct impact this library development could provide neighboring businesses. Increased foot traffic and new community activities bring optimism to those businesses. We’re also optimistic that the traffic study next year will yield a better solution for access to downtown because of the library project.
“Placemaking” principles also align well with this project. In placemaking, public, private, not-for-profit and community sectors partner to strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood around arts, cultural and educational activities. Placemaking animates spaces, rejuvenates streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, creates jobs and brings people together to learn create, innovate, inspire and be inspired.
Creative centers tend to be places with thick labor markets that can fulfill the employment needs of the creative class, people who are not looking just for “a job” but for places with amenities to support innovation and creative thought. The library proposal is the placemaking opportunity that will recreate a neighborhood by bringing new opportunities for collaboration, innovation and discovery. It will be a place that supports creative thought, small business development and lifelong learning.
Isn’t that the place you want Appleton to be?
Appleton Downtown, Inc.,