No looking back

Downtown Manitowoc’s projects eye the future

Posted on Mar 28, 2019 :: Economic Development
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

A downtown Manitowoc building that once entertained generations of area residents soon will have that opportunity again.

Strand Adventures, an indoor sports and recreation facility, is looking to open this spring in the former Strand Theater on Eighth Street in the city’s downtown. The Strand Theater showed its final movies in 2014 — the same year a 10-screen movie theater opened on the city’s west side.

In 2018, four investors — Mike Howe, Matt DiMarco, Kurt Scherer and Curtis Hall — purchased the former theater and began making plans for their new business. They renovated the entire interior, including its six movie theaters, to make way for a ninja jungle gym area, a rock climbing area, laser tag, room to play Nerf ball, an arcade, a batting cage, a play area for younger children and an area to practice golf swings. 

“People are really excited about this project and can’t wait for it to open,” says Peter Wills, executive director of Progress Lakeshore, the economic development corporation for Manitowoc County. “This will definitely fill a need in the community since it will provide families with more recreational options.”

The $1.2 million project was supported through a $365,000 revolving loan through the City of Manitowoc Community Development Authority and a loan from Bank First.

“Our team is really a group of families with a shared vision for a vibrant community and dedication to making Manitowoc a place we can all enjoy and be proud to call home. We see a lack of kid-focused, activity-based opportunities locally and want to provide that to our community,” DiMarco says. “Each of the four partners has a specific skill and knowledge base that all fits together like a puzzle and we believe Strand Adventures will become a downtown magnet and regional draw for tourism to our town. We hope to be on the forefront of revitalization of downtown Manitowoc and look forward to a bright future for the area.”

Another downtown building also is getting a new purpose. Lakeshore Technical College is moving its Manitowoc campus to 600 York St. from its current west side location. The move will provide more convenient access to students who take classes in Manitowoc and is part of the city’s continuing efforts to enhance the downtown, Wills says.

LTC leaders say the new location is closer to the local YMCA and library, which makes it more convenient for students. In addition, it will create a shorter commute for students coming from Two Rivers. The building is being remodeled to meet LTC’s needs and classes will begin there in August.

Also downtown, the historic Schuette building is undergoing a $9.5 million project that will include 17 low-income apartments on the second and third floors with commercial space on the ground floor. That project is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Wills says the area is considering a study to look at local housing needs. “We have a definite need for workers and we need to make sure there are places for them to live,” he says.

Away from Manitowoc’s downtown, Redline Plastics LLC is building a $12.5 million facility to manufacture rotational-molded, vacuum-formed and line-bent plastic products for several industries as well as leather and textile products for the power sports industry.

“This is a brand new company that decided to locate here in Manitowoc,” says Wills, explaining Redline is part of what used to be known as Dowco Inc.

Dowco sold its marine business segment in June 2018 and decided to consolidate its plastic processing sector in Manitowoc.

“There has definitely been an increased interest in our industrial park,” Wills says. “We hope to have more announcements soon.

Other developments in the county include:

Kiel: Two dairy-related businesses are growing in the city, which bears the unique distinction of being located in Calumet, Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties.

Sargento recently added 10,000 square feet and hired 30 additional workers at its Kiel facility, while the Land O’Lakes facility has started a $30 million expansion that will allow the plant to increase its milk intake by 50 percent.

“We’ve upgraded and expanded our waste treatment facility so we can handle these expansions,” says City Administrator/Clerk Jamie Aulik. “Our treatment facility could easily handle a city of 50,000 — we have about 3,770 residents — but we use that extra capacity for industrial uses.”

Aulik says Kiel’s diverse industrial base, which includes Amerequip, HUI and Polar Ware, is a real positive for the community.

“We have a bright future and are creating a new subdivision to help deal with our growing population,” he says. “We have another new subdivision that is almost full.”

Two Rivers: A new bar — Tapped on the Lakeshore — is drawing plenty of attention in the area and beyond for its unique league offering: ax throwing. Located on Memorial Drive across from Lake Michigan, Tapped on the Lakeshore opened last fall and features ax throwing in addition to its 24-tap lineup and other indoor and outdoor games.

The axes are thrown inside “cages” that are closely monitored, says owner Jolene McMahon. Two instructors also are available to help customers through the process. The bar is part of the World Axe Throwing League.