Kemmeter column: City shows signs of redevelopment
By Gene Kemmeter
Stevens Point is showing signs of looming redevelopment within its corporate limits, with hints that much more could be coming soon.
The city’s first national discount store, Kmart, was razed this summer, a victim of an increasing trend to shutter large department stores. Kmart came to the city in the early 1970s, spurring development in the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point area that included the city’s first McDonalds Restaurant.
The Kmart arrival also doomed the nearby Tempo Department Store, a regional discount store that had come to Stevens Point a decade earlier. Tempo was owned by Gamble-Skogmo, the owner of Gambles hardware stores, and those discount stores were shuttered by the early 1980s, with many of the sites reutilized.
The Kmart site will become a housing development, while part of that local Tempo store now houses a restaurant. Another section of the Tempo shopping center will be the home of a micro brewery that is scheduled to open next month.
A second North Side landmark, Cooper Motors, also came down last month, along with a neighboring building that housed Ella’s Bar, opening a large site in the 600 block of Division Street for future uses.
Other sites around town have found new uses in recent years. The former Grant School property on Fourth Avenue is seeing residential redevelopment. The former Emerson School property is being developed into a neighborhood park.
The city’s east side, east of Highway 51, started becoming a commercial area in the 1980s and continues to see new development as older structures are removed and vacant lots are filled in.
Two pending projects may soon transform the downtown area. A housing development may fill the site of the former Lullabye Furniture factory that has been vacant for nearly three decades. A second development may begin the transformation of the former Portesi Pizza and Belke Lumber sites into business and housing structures.
The city recently approved a developer agreement for the “New Fox” project on Main Street to save the facade of the old Fox Theater building and construct an idea center behind that facade to serve as an incubator for small businesses.
While the new projects look promising, the list of potential redevelopment sites continues to change. The former Shopko store in the Centerpoint Marketplace mall in the downtown will soon become vacant with the demise of the Shopko chain. What will replace it may take years to determine.
Fifty, sixty years ago most development was spurred by major outside developers who came and went, expanding into open pastures, turning a quick buck and then moving on to green pastures. They often left behind aging structures, sometimes too large or too dilapidated for reuse.
More recently, redevelopment has come from within the community, local entrepreneurs seeking to build within their own area and create jobs. That situation helps to maintain a community.