First phase of Dells $40M redevelopment plan to start this summer

First phase of Dells $40M redevelopment plan to start this summer

In the works for more than a decade, the first phase of a nearly $40-million redevelopment plan that Wisconsin Dells leaders say will drastically improve the downtown’s economy and appearance, is scheduled to start this summer.

“We want a downtown that people want to be at and stay at for long periods of time.  And that’s what we’re aiming for with the downtown proposals we have,” Dells Mayor Brian Landers said. 

The goal is to turn the downtown into a modern river arts district by as early as 2020.

“Arts being defined from everything to visual arts, to music, to culinary arts,” Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau Executive Director Romy Snyder said.  “We hope to see new developments.   Really things that are destinations- and are main drivers, that are reasons why people would come to the downtown Wisconsin Dells area.”

While Snyder says Dells traditions such as water parks, roller coasters, boat tours and live shows will continue, leaders hope a new, modern look on Broadway, as well as implementing ideas like a public square with free Wi-Fi, plazas with and skating rinks, even a public market will keep more locals and visitors downtown.

“And things like outdoor movie theaters. Things like amphitheaters that could be cut into the hillside,” Snyder said.  “So we’re trying to find the balance of using the natural resources of being right on the Wisconsin River. And, of course, the history and legacy of what Wisconsin Dells is all about.”

Landers says tourism taxes, including recent increases in Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton hotel room tax rates, will pay for the project. 

“The money we’re generating from tourism we’re putting right back in to promote more tourism,” Landers said.  “We have seen the statistical advantages of making these changes.”

 The mayor said that by looking to the example of already expanding outdoor dining, some restaurants have seen 20 percent more business. With the first expansion phase scheduled to start on Oak Street off of Broadway, Dells leaders are hoping for similar payoffs beginning this summer.

The biggest concern Landers has heard from residents is about the loss of parking during the coming construction phase.  In the long term, one of the recommendations includes new parking garages.

 The next expected development will come in the next few weeks, when Snyder says a study will be released to see if the idea of a public market is possible.