Expect to see the downtown Appleton skyline change dramatically during the next few years.
With multiple projects on the docket — including the addition of U.S. Venture’s new $54.5 million headquarters — the downtown will have a different vibe, says Karen Harkness, director of community and economic development for the City of Appleton.
“People want to live downtown and the projects in place will address that demand,” she says.
U.S. Venture announced late last year its plans to build its new headquarters in downtown Appleton on the Fox River bluffsite to replace its current building in Kimberly.
“The U.S. Venture headquarters is a catalyst project that will affect the downtown for years to come,” Harkness says.
U.S. Venture is a leading distributor of petroleum and renewable energy products, lubricants and tires and other parts for the automotive industry. In announcing the move last year, company officials said the new headquarters would add to the city’s economic base and creative vibrancy.
The building, which is scheduled to be finished in early 2022, will sit atop an underground parking garage that will be owned by the City of Appleton. The $25 million parking garage will have 625 stalls. U.S. Venture will buy 400 monthly parking passes, and the remaining spots will be available to the public.
“We hope to start work on the parking structure next year, and once that is completed, U.S. Venture can begin work on its office tower,” Harkness says.
The U.S. Venture project only takes up a portion of the bluff site. There is space available to the west of the proposed building as well as to the east and across from the Appleton YMCA.
“We want that area to be mixed-use and definitely include housing,” Harkness says.
U.S. Venture’s move will attract more businesses to the downtown, says Jennifer Stephany, executive director of Appleton Downtown Inc.
“Anytime you add a substantial employee base to a downtown, it creates a ripple effect,” she says. “The service providers, retailers and restaurants downtown will all see an increase in business. I think it will also lead to the addition of new service providers to the downtown since they will see the benefit of being located so close to that many employees.”
Just a short distance away from the U.S. Venture project, plans are in place to build a new Appleton Public Library on the site of the Soldiers Square parking garage. Talks about moving the library from its current location have been going on for several years. The Common Council recently approved preliminary design and engineering work on the site and says
final approval is dependent on coming up with a comprehensive parking solution for the area.
Commercial Horizons of Appleton is the developer behind the proposed $30 million, 120,000-square-foot mixed-use project. The Appleton library will be joined at its new location by businesses and residences, including apartments and condominiums. The development would be completed in phases and when finished, could add $66.3 million to the city’s base.
Just kitty-corner from the proposed library site, the Zuelke Building also is being developed. Harkness says a plan is in place to convert the top two floors (11 and 12) into two two-story townhouses. The 10th floor will feature studio apartments, with floors four through nine set aside for offices. The lower three floors will be used for retail. Some underground parking also will be included.
“The building will be completely redone,” Harkness says.
Adding more residential space downtown is a top priority, she adds. “There is such a huge demand for housing downtown. People want to live there and be part of the excitement,” Harkness says. “People don’t want to shovel or deal with yardwork too and living in a condo or apartment downtown is a great option.”
Another change taking place is the straightening of Oneida Street at the north end of the Oneida Skyline Bridge to make it easier to navigate downtown. Appleton Street also will become a two-way street.
“It sounds like a little thing, but it will increase accessibility and make it easier to navigate downtown,” Stephany says.
As for the Fox Cities Exhibition Center, which opened at the start of 2018, Stephany says she’s noticed more visitors downtown, and those numbers will only increase in the coming years since convention dates are filling up fast for next year and the year after.
“The addition of the amphitheater and redevelopment of Jones Park only adds to the opportunities that the center has when it comes to booking events since you will have space inside and outside,” she says. “It also provides more connectivity to the riverfront and what is happening there.”
ADI is moving its office to the Red Lion Hotel Paper Valley and will open a small visitors center there to help people find their way around the downtown, Stephany says.
“There are so many redevelopment possibilities in the downtown, from where the blue parking ramp is located (it is set for removal next year) to the old library building once the library moves,” she says. “It’s an exciting time for the downtown.”