Sample page

Reviving Wisconsin’s Downtowns

In 1982, a small group of business, professional and community leaders formed the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council to address the serious problems plaguing the state’s downtowns. Once the hub and heart of their communities, by the early 1980’s Wisconsin downtowns were deteriorating. Commercial districts, no longer the center of commerce, were becoming wastelands of vacant stores and shabby buildings.

Dedicated individuals organized workshops and seminars, where state and national experts advised communities on how to market, manage and revitalize their downtowns. WDAC was instrumental in spearheading legislation to create Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), one important factor in Wisconsin’s success stories: today there are over 85 BIDs in Wisconsin, managing and rebuilding downtowns.

Along with state legislators, WDAC was also a key player in the development of the Wisconsin Main Street Program, an initiative providing technical assistance to downtowns. This is one of the most successful state programs in the country, currently assisting more than thirty communities.

Smart Growth Initiative

WDAC is also an avid supporter of the Smart Growth initiative. Effective and sensible community planning can lead to revitalization of downtown areas. WDAC champions downtown as a key component of smart growth; provides a toolbox for local/regional comprehensive planning and helps communities develop a quality downtown plan; educates developers on the benefits of downtown; works to identify and remove barriers to downtown development; and coordinates with other organizations to promote smart growth for downtowns.

Board of Directors

Just like the membership, The WDAC Board of Directors consists of business, professional and community leaders with a desire to make a difference in their local as well as the communities throughout the state. Their backgrounds vary, but they share the belief that vibrant downtowns are critical to the economic sustainability and overall attractiveness of communities as places to live, work, visit and connect.

Board President Jeff Sachse, Rawley Point Economic Advising
Two Rivers native Jeff Sachse is an enthusiastic advocate for Manitowoc County economic development and beyond. Sachse uses his expertise to transform conversation into action to make our communities and state different and better.

Board Member/Vice-President Jordan Nordby, Main Street Monroe, Inc.
Jordan currently serves as executive director for Main Street Monroe, Inc. His background in state and local public policy has led to a career grounded in service and leadership. He joined the board after connecting a lifelong passion that started while growing up in Green Bay before its current downtown revitalization efforts started. He believes good downtowns have a unique blend and concentration of purpose, history, and talent that they speak to something more.

Board Member/Treasurer Keely Campbell, Ayres Associates
Believing that all communities can have a sustainable, accessible, and vibrant downtown core led Keely to her current position. Since 2016, Keely has worked with a team of planners, landscape architects, economic development professionals, and environmental scientists to empower communities to turn their visions into realities through vibrant, locally-led projects that create beneficial value for people, the environment, and economies. 

Board Member At-Large Elizabeth Brodek, City of Wausau
Liz has loved downtowns for as long as she can remember. She has exclusively worked in and for downtowns for her entire career working with seven BIDs across three cities in Wisconsin before joining the City of Wausau. Liz adores finding and connecting community assets and champions to help a place realize its full potential.

Board Member At-Large Roger Russove, Two Rivers Main Street 
With extensive experience in local advertising and marketing, Roger enjoys opportunities to help local businesses grow as a consultant. 

Board Member At-Large Jason Ilstrup, Downtown Madison, Inc.
As a former Peace Corps volunteer, political aide, hospitality employee and current President of Downtown Madison, Inc, Jason learned the value of creating connections between different people to help solve problems. He believes we can learn from each other how to re-imagine our downtowns as vibrant and equitable places for our entire communities.

Board Member At-Large Dan Roarty, Dimension IV
Dimension IV provides Planning, Architectural Design and Construction Administration services to individuals, businesses, organizations and communities throughout Wisconsin and adjoining states.  Dimension IV is committed to supporting organizations that help people live happy and productive lives in strong, healthy and safe communities.  As both an architect and adjunct professor at UWGB, Dan enjoys helping people discover how buildings and the immediate surroundings can sustainably serve their community.

Board Member At-Large, Melissa Hunt, CEcD, Ayres Associates
A passionate leader in work and in life, Melissa is actively involved in downtown, community, and economic development both for work and play. Melissa’s first job was Downtown and BID Manager in Oshkosh and she is still passionate about downtowns. Melissa currently works at Ayres Associates.
Growing up in Kenosha and taking frequent trips downtown, she learned early in life that’s where a community’s heart and soul emerges. Melissa has been fortunate to take her passion for downtowns statewide and  enthusiastically serves on the WDAC Board.

Board Member At-Large Jeff Fortin, City of Waukesha
Jeff’s work includes extensive work in the downtown including implementing the Central City Master plan, streetscape improvements, downtown branding, marketing/social media, special events, business outreach, and managing the City’s downtown grants and loan programs.  He also works on Comprehensive Planning, redevelopment projects, and Tax Incremental Finance districts throughout the City.  He enjoys working on such a diverse mix of job duties, all of which are helping strengthen Downtown Waukesha.

Advisory Board Members

Anne Katz, Create Wisconsin
Anne is the first executive director of Create Wisconsin (formerly Arts Wisconsin), a nonprofit statewide community arts action and development organization whose mission is to nurture, serve, promote, and speak up for the arts in Wisconsin and all of its communities. Anne advocates for and builds partnerships in the public and private sectors for the arts and creative industries on the local level.

Adriana Humbert, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) fosters the cooperation necessary to support sustainable business growth and job creation. Adriana is committed to the WEDC goal of leveraging Wisconsin’s unique character as a state that is innovative, hardworking, independent and success-minded to create the right climate that maximizes the potential for economic growth in Wisconsin.

Melissa Kono, UW-Madison Division of Extension
Melissa Kono is an Associate Professor with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension and the Community Resource Development Educator in Clark and Trempealeau Counties. Melissa is passionate about rural development, particularly downtown development and revitalization in small towns and provides technical assistance to local tourism and community development groups including work on Sales Tax Effects on County Tourism and Creating a Downtown Inventory.

 

Wisconsin Downtown Action Council

 

Email

[email protected]

 

Contact Us
First
Last

Or send via US Mail to:

Wisconsin Downtown Action Council
c/o Downtown Madison Inc.
Attn:  Jason Ilstrup
122 W. Washington Avenue, Suite 250
Madison, WI 53703

Why Join WDAC?

 

Peer-to-Peer Learning

We hold regular meetings around the state, making regional networking easier on both time and budget. Our meetings are hosted by a WDAC member community and usually include a tour and discussion of what has worked and what has not for that downtown. Participants offer impressions and share knowledge and ideas with the host.

Partnerships

WDAC partners with organizations to provide education and support to WDAC members. We bring together a downtown collaboration of groups working to revitalize and preserve traditional business districts through education, advocacy and resources for community leaders and city planners.

Resources

There are many tools available to those working to keep Wisconsin downtowns vital. The challenge is tracking down all the resources. WDAC strives to make available the information most helpful to downtown advocates and professionals through our website, regular gatherings and e-mail notifications to our members.

Membership Now Available

Fill out the form below to join us today!  Effective in May 2024, the WDAC does charge an annual Membership/Sponsorship fee. Donations are of course also welcome as we work together in fostering downtown revitalization throughout Wisconsin.

WDAC 2024 Sponsorship-Membership (1) (1)

Join WDAC
First
Last

Stay in the Loop!

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter featuring the latest news and events.

Footer Signup