Future of Prairie du Chien’s main street organization uncertain


By Correne Martin

Prairie du Chien Downtown Revitalization Inc. (PDRI) has hit a tipping point. Funding and the number of volunteers are dwindling, leaving the future uncertain unless the community comes forward in support of the organization.

A public meeting is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 6 p.m. in room 236 of the Crawford County Administration Building in Prairie du Chien. This meeting will allow discussion about what the public wants to see happen with PDRI and whether enough consistent funding can be found to support the organization moving forward. The real question is whether PDRI can stay open or if it will need to close.

“PDRI is going to need funding, otherwise I’m not sure we’ll make it beyond the end of the year,” Director Rebecca Eby stated last week.“This is really a community organization but I think people take things for granted and assume that we’ll continue or that their donation doesn’t make a difference, but the reality is that every dollar counts.”

“We want to know if people believe PDRI has run its course and they don’t want it to continue. Or are there people out there who didn’t realize the dire need here and want to do what they can to help,” said board member Kathleen Hein. “We need to come up with some creative solutions moving forward.”

PDRI has been funded through local membership fees, city and individual contributions, and donations toward projects. No state funding is provided.

Since the organization started in 2004, many projects and events have been accomplished in the downtown.

One of its largest and most visible undertakings has been the design of the entire downtown streetscape. This has involved improvements to brickwork, facades, awnings and signage for merchandising, beautification and historical preservation. The design committee also worked to enhance the downtown with light poles, benches, waste baskets, crosswalk stamping, hanging flower baskets, art banners, and skyline lighting for the holidays.

They have offered workshop training about topics such as the Affordable Care Act, customer service, social media, and window displays as well as business counseling and a business breakfast featuring informative speakers.

Fun events have been created and promoted to bring additional business to the retailers. These activities have included Family Fun Night, Spooktoberfest—which both bring hundreds of kids and their families to the downtown—Witches and Warlocks, Scarecrow Contest, Movies in the Park, Pot of Gold Scavenger Hunt and more.

Taste, Toast and Tomfoolery is of course PDRI’s annual gala and one of its biggest fundraisers. It also hosts an annual awards dinner and volunteer appreciation picnic.

In addition to its current offerings, PDRI has many goals for the future, which include further facade and signage improvements as well as artistic signage for the city’s proposed roundabouts that will direct drivers to the downtown businesses.

“We had all of this great support in the beginning. People wanted to see things happen. But these are the kinds of benefits we will lose if we’re not a main street organization,” Hein said.

“Our membership has decreased by two-thirds. It’s not that we’re not having successful projects and events. It’s just that there are so many businesses asking for support,” Eby added.

Hein encourages anyone with an opinion about PDRI to attend the Oct. 2 meeting.

“If you have an opinion at all or if you really feel like ‘why hasn’t this been done,’ please come to the meeting,” Hein said.

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