If you look back at old pictures of Monument Square, you can see it has changed a lot over the years. In the past there were mostly grassy areas with large pools of water. There were also fountains in the past, but that was during a different redesign. Just do a quick Google search for Monument Square Racine images and you’ll see numerous designs over the years. As the design changes, the cars noticeably change along with it through the years.
Here we are in 2019 and here we are with plans once again to change Monument Square.
As part of the city’s 2019 Intergovernmental Revenue Sharing budget, the city has budgeted $50,000 for a Monument Square redesign.
That is the same fund where the city has also budgeted $150,000 for a Downtown traffic and parking study.
When looking back through the archives, it’s easy to find stories talking about the past redesigns.
A Feb. 12, 2004, Journal Times local story reads: “Imagine a new Monument Square with the monuments moved, a central area cleared for events.”
That sounds very similar to the beginning of the Jan. 25 Journal Times article that stated, “Monument Square will be redesigned this year for a likely makeover next year.”
When Roger Brooks, a downtown and tourism specialist, toured Racine not too long ago, he remarked that the square is not as functional as it could be.
Kelly Kruse, executive director of the Downtown Racine Corp., said, “We would like to see a permanent stage, more trees and green space, multiple seating areas and public bathrooms … These are just a few of the ways we could enhance Monument Square and make it more functional and enjoyable for year-round programming.”
What is interesting is that just a few years before, experts said that having a permanent stage was not the best decision.
That 2004 article stated: “A flat area is recommended instead of stages, to accommodate different kinds of performances and uses … It’s a common design mistake to build a stage that musicians and performers will later say is inappropriate. It’s better to let them bring their own stages.”
The reality is that design concepts are going to change over the years, but is it really necessary to keep redesigning Monument Square year after year?
Downtown Racine Corporation does a great job keeping Downtown vibrant by having events throughout the year at shops and at Monument Square. For instance, the Fire and Ice festival last weekend was really successful, with hundreds of people coming out to enjoy the weather and Downtown experiences.
In the summer, there are even more events.
The January article about the redesign indicated there could be even more activity on the square if there was a grassy area for people to sit to watch a movie or if there was a splash pad. Maybe that is all true.
But on a practical level, there is a splash pad just a few blocks east — the Laurel Clark Fountain by Festival Hall. Also, there is nothing that we know of stopping the city from holding a movie in the square as it is now. People already bring in lot of chairs for summer concerts on the square. In addition, as far as the suggestion of bathrooms goes, there are also bathrooms just a few blocks away at the fountain.
There is more the city could do Downtown, but instead of spending $50,000 on a proposed redesign, what about taking a fraction of that and holding a few more events. Or, instead of spending money, the city could revisit some of its existing ordinances to ensure it’s as resident-friendly as possible.