City’s look needs workSuperior is ugly. Weeds grow in the cracks of sidewalks. Junk litters North End. Vacant lots and empty storefronts dot the landscape of many of Superior’s main drags. Condemned homes stand in city neighborhoods for far too long.
By: Shelley Nelson, The Daily Telegram
Superior is ugly.
Weeds grow in the cracks of sidewalks. Junk litters North End. Vacant lots and empty storefronts dot the landscape of many of Superior’s main drags. Condemned homes stand in city neighborhoods for far too long.
The city needs to address aesthetics.
That was the overwhelming consensus of the nine people who stepped up Thursday night to help launch Superior’s public planning process for the city’s next comprehensive plan.
It was a disappointing showing after 830 cards were mailed in the 3rd District inviting residents to share their vision for the city, according to Port and Planning Director Jason Serck.
Still, those who took time out of their busy days had some distinct ideas on where the city can improve. Their ideas will help shape the city’s future as the city designs a new plan to guide development into 2030.
Not distinct enough
“One of the things that bugs me the most about Superior is I think Superior has a lot of potential to be distinctive,” said Lance Nelson of Billings Park. “I think that we could really stand out. We have a fascinating history, a fascinating legacy. I think that our proximity to one of the most impressive natural features in the world again creates even more possibility for a distinctive, fun, interesting community.”
However, he said, Superior doesn’t do enough to achieve that distinction.
Super Wal-Marts are not the answer, he said.
“I think that is actually a regressive sign,” Nelson said. “It kills local merchants ... everyone’s got a Super Wal-Mart. I call it McSprawl — more McDonald’s, more drive-in restaurants, more crap.”
And it’s those local merchants — like the Anchor Bar — that help make communities distinct.
Nelson said when he attended school in Madison and worked for Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley when she toured the state in 2003, he said he recommended they stop at the Anchor Bar, “the best dive bar you’ve ever been in.”
“That’s the sort of thing I wish we could market more,” Nelson said. “I wish we had more of that sort of creative Mom and Pop, homegrown, local distinctiveness and local flavor, and I wish that was more dominant, a dominant theme in Superior than sort of the new sprawling sort of development” like East Second Street which abounds in fast food restaurants and gas stations.
“It’s just junk,” he said. “I wish we had less of that.”
Just plain ugly
“The one thing that I think you, the city council, the mayor, everybody has to do about Superior is that you have got to do something about the way this town looks,” said Teddy Meronek of East End. “I mean, I’ve heard people say this is the ugliest place they’ve ever lived and I agree with them.”
Meronek has long fought for historic preservation and has lost some notable fights in recent years, including efforts to establish a historic district downtown, preserve the former Central High School — a summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge — and the former Palace Theater that stood at 1102 Tower Ave.
She said she doesn’t have the answers on how to solve the problems.
“You have got a heck of a lot of work ahead of you,” Meronek said. “I don’t see a lot of forward progress; I just see a lot of backwards. I’m sorry, but vacant lots on Tower Avenue are not very inviting to people who come into this town. Empty storefronts on Belknap are not very inviting. You have architecture that does not fit in with what you have already. Somebody has got to sit down and bite the bullet. Somebody has got to make the tough decisions and tell these people that we’re going to put in this downtown plan and you’re going to have to live with it. I know it’s hard.”
Meronek said she is disheartened enough that she doesn’t care anymore, but she believes the city is going to have to listen to people.
Dirty and unkempt
“You drive in the North End and it is just disgusting,” said 3rd District resident Rebecca Foix. “There is junk pile after junk pile after junk pile. I don’t go there often, but once in awhile I’m in that area, and sure enough its ugly.”
And that’s without taking into consideration the condemned housing that city officials squeeze in between roadwork and snowplowing twice a year.
Foix said vacant, condemned house near her home draws vandals and crime to the neighborhood.
“We’ve had the police there,” she said. “The kids are there spray painting and stuff.”
Councilor Kevin Norbie said he is aware of the house, but the city is currently faced with a backlog and the house is on the list for demolition.
“They’ve got to come down faster,” Foix said.
Her husband, Gary, said one of the things that has to happen is for people to take responsibility for their property, rather than the city taking care of it.
“I shovel my sidewalk every time it snows,” Gary Foix said. “I don’t care how much there is. I want it to be clean. My neighbors don’t care.”
Serck agreed personal pride would go a long way to improving city neighborhoods. “We can’t be everyone’s mother,” Serck said of the city.
Still, there is more the city can do, Rebecca Foix believes. “We have to look at other cities and see what they do, and we have to start implementing something,” she said.
Contact Shelley Nelson at email@example.com or (715) 395-5022.