With all the coverage the Tribune gave last week to the Waunakee Public Library’s opening in its new location, one piece may have been omitted: its contribution to the downtown’s economy.
For many years, when Waunakee had an active Economic Development Committee, much work went into revitalizing the historic Main Street district. And, with the 2014 Main Street reconstruction, a number of those goals were achieved. With decorative pavement and lighting, hanging flower baskets and street furniture, the village’s main road is a much more inviting place. New shops and apartments are now located there, and even more are expected to open in the next year as the Hovde Lamphouse apartment complex is completed.
But just north on Madison Street, the defunct Waunakee Alloy plant sat, a wasted, contaminated site.
Now in its place, the new Waunakee Public Library, which opens its doors Aug. 1, will do more than just provide a larger space for area residents to browse books, research, study and mingle. It will bring people to the Main Street area where they can visit the stores and restaurants.
Each week, the Tribune lists programs – open to the public and free – at the library. The library staff have always booked interesting performances, author talks and speakers on a variety of topics.
Last week, the village’s Horizons mailing went to all residents, including a list of those programs for the next few months.
Some of the more interesting ones to me included the Cork n’ Bottle String Band, who will perform bluegrass on the evening of Sept. 24. A Norwegian and Irish folk music concert is planned on Oct. 3, and a Gaelic harp player will perform Oct. 10. These will be a new larger setting in the new library.
These and other programs will draw more people to Waunakee’s downtown who might want to grab a bite to eat beforehand or a beverage afterwards. The library puts another destination in the village’s central business district.
This can only help to attract new restaurants and shops to the retail spaces soon to be available once the Lamphouse complex is completed.
Already, Main Street’s reconstruction has brought more people downtown, but the new library should bring even more to the center of the community and strengthen residents’ connection to their hometown and to one another. And that will allow Waunakee, which has grown to more than 14,000 residents, to maintain the “small town feel” so many love about the community.