Osceola’s Discovery Center was named Best New Building of 2018 at the Wisconsin Main Street Awards in April. The annual award ceremony recognizes exceptional downtown revitalization projects in the state.
“It was a proud night for Osceola to be recognized by the Wisconsin Main Street for this building project,” said Germaine Ross, director of the Osceola Area Chamber and Main Street Program, the group that nominated the building for the award.
Comprised of a library, village hall, police station and other gathering spaces, the Discovery Center opened in October 2018 after years of planning and fundraising.
Representatives of the team that brought the Discovery Center to fruition traveled to Chippewa Falls April 28 to accept the award. Those who spoke to the Sun seemed to see the recognition as confirmation of their efforts to serve the community.
“One thing that struck me when I went into the completed building was how nice it was, how all the parts really came together from the paint to the windows,” said Mark Kravik, who led the Discovery Center fundraising campaign. “And the number of people who have signed up for the library since the building was completed is very impressive.”
According to the Osceola Public Library’s records, about 330 people have signed up for library cards since the institution moved to its new home. Kravik noted that the building’s meeting rooms also see frequent use.
“Every time I’ve been there the meeting rooms are busy,” he said. “ I didn’t realize what a need that was. It’s really a good feeling to see that the building really does meet a big need in Osceola.”
Marcia Dressel, who sits on the library board and Mill Pond Learning Foundation board, also emphasized the community-level impact.
“In the months since the building opened, I’ve seen so many groups, both large and small, take advantage of what the new facility has to offer,” she told the Sun. “It has become a gathering place for all ages in all the ways we planned, and so many more. The Discovery Center is a community hub: a venue for workshops for business owners or artist talks, a staging place for vocal groups or guest speakers, a meeting place for civic organizations to plan and collaborate. I’ve seen tutoring and small workgroup meetings taking place in the corridor booths; seniors are enjoying numerous activities in a space of their own. And that’s not to mention all of the additional library programming possible in the larger space! It truly is becoming the community asset we envisioned it would be.”
At the awards ceremony, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation secretary and CEO Mark R. Hogan spoke about the impact of economic development efforts executed by Main Street programs.
“All across the state, those involved in the Wisconsin Main Street Program are making a real difference in improving their downtowns by developing new and innovative ways to attract visitors and support local businesses,” he said in a press release. “These awards recognize the organizations and dedicated individuals whose efforts not only benefit their communities, but also set the standard for other Main Street communities statewide.”
Wisconsin Main Street is a community development program administered by WEDC that targets Wisconsin’s historic commercial districts. WEDC provides technical support and training to the 34 Main Street communities to help them revitalize their business districts based on guidelines developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Since the program’s inception in 1987, Wisconsin Main Street community projects have resulted in the creation of more than 2,700 new businesses and more than 14,000 net new jobs. In addition, more than $1.9 billion in public and private investment has occurred in Wisconsin Main Street communities.
During fiscal year 2018, Wisconsin Main Street communities were responsible for the creation of an estimated 619 net new jobs and 137 net new businesses in the state. More than 41,000 volunteer hours were worked in those communities.
Kravik is hopeful that the Discovery Center’s impacts will be long lasting.
“We’re thinking that’s a 50 or 75 year building,” he said. “It’s built well and will meet the needs of the community for decades to come.”