Fort Atkinson – Comprehensive Plan Update

Client: City of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin

Dates: 2018-2019

Need: Provide an updated comprehensive plan that supports high-quality development along key commercial corridors, addressed vacant industrial sites, and supported the continued economic vitality and character of the downtown and riverfront.

Services: We have served as Fort Atkinson’s consulting planner for many years. Over this period, we have developed thorough knowledge, built strong relationships, and assisted the City in forwarding many of its objectives. The City struggled to attract new residential construction during the recession but has seen signs of recovery in the past several years. While the residential market has begun to rebound somewhat, commercial vacancies still exist downtown and opportunities exist to further leverage the City’s successful Riverwalk. Additionally, finding users for vacant industrial and retail properties throughout the City continues to be a challenge. The full ten-year update of the Plan was adopted in 2019, as City officials sought to reconfirm the Plan vision and address these continuing challenges.

Results: The 2018-19 Comprehensive Plan built upon the City’s 2015 community visioning and engagement process, which outlined a number of public objectives and goals, as well as key sites in need of development and redevelopment strategies, such as the vacant former Kmart and Smith Motors sites, Thomas Industries building, and Klement Industrial Park. Vandewalle & Associates worked with the City to determine what viable options these sites could support.

Additionally, Vandewalle & Associates helped the City plan for the west side of the City, between the current municipal boundary and the Highway 26 bypass. The potential development of a new Fort Healthcare campus west of the interchange has created challenges and opportunities, as additional development is likely to occur near the new hospital site. The firm also identified the northeast side as a key redevelopment area and undertook TID feasibility and small area concept plans in 2017-2018 to help determine this area’s future, with potential to transition the area from big-box and highway-oriented retail to riverfront residential and other destination uses.

Public participation events for the Comprehensive Plan revealed interest in a coordinated citywide trail network linking schools, parks, the downtown, the library, the hospital, employment areas, and neighborhoods. Residents also wished to provide more housing options for seniors, continue the momentum downtown, and leverage that success to attract new families to live in Fort Atkinson. These priorities were incorporated into the final recommendations of the Plan.

Our work in Fort Atkinson continues, as we are currently working with City staff on a full rewrite of the City’s Zoning Code, most recently updated in 2002 but with portions dating to the 1960s, to respond to modern land use and construction trends, as well as allow for more development flexibility and ease of administration.