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Four X-factors for the downtown this summer

Halverson (click for larger version)
May 29, 2012 | 04:37 PM
Lake Geneva is a resort community.

And the summer is the make or break time for many downtown merchants.

They'd like it if downtown was as well known for its shopping as it is for being next to Geneva Lake. That hasn't happened yet, but since I've moved here there's been movement in that direction, especially when it comes to dining. There are better restaurants downtown and the decision to allow outdoor dining is off to a fantastic start.

The weather is the ultimate X-factor and there's little that can be done about that. But there are other X-factors that might affect the city this summer:

New parking system

Many locals are upset and confused by the system. Seniors got shafted and you're probably better off without a resident sticker than you are with it considering the rules that have been established that limit locals to two hours of parking. The introduction of the meters was something less than elegant. But most of the issues involve residents.

The tourists are a different story.

I'm not sure the $1 an hour will be a big issue as it's not out of line with other tourist or metropolitan areas. The old meters were on their last legs. We needed to move ahead. And, frankly, the downtown streetline looks less cluttered now. Tourists may find the kiosks confusing at first but by now they've probably dealt with similar ones.

The bigger and eternal problem is plain lack of downtown parking. There has been discussion of a parking structure and plans for a system to transport people into town from outlying parking lots. But those discussions have been on for awhile and the parking lot, at least, will be awhile coming if it comes at all.

Visitors will just have to stomach the traffic as they have for decades.

The Welcome Center

The Welcome Center on Main Street that's not really much of a welcome center.

Sure they have brochures and a few items for sale but its reason for existence is to interest people in seeing a 90-minute presentation on vacation packages. To some degree this is a buyer-beware situation. The word may get around town and locals won't bother to stop — they probably wouldn't anyway considering it says Welcome Center and they're already here.

But there is an issue with the signage when it comes to visitors. It implies it's an information center every bit as legit as the chamber. Almost anyone coming from the east will see it just as they enter the downtown area — just after passing the barren plains of a golf course that isn't a golf course. The Welcome Center has nothing to do with the chamber and the information there is much less and the people much less educated than those at the chamber.

This means that unsuspecting visitors may drop in with good vibes about our fair city and then walk away angry if they get wrapped up in a conversation about vacation packages to somewhere else. Problem is nothing the welcome center does appears to be illegal, so there's nothing much that can be done. We'll just have to ride it out and hope they eventually go away without causing too much damage — which I think they will.


Once forgotten it seems to have had a revival. An invitation-only event recently drew a great cross-section of the community. There was great food and drink, good conversation and lots of wow moments about the exhibits.

Then Saturday morning a variety of dignitaries had a ribbon cutting. There are plenty of new things to look at and the new director has pumped new energy into an old idea.

Problem is getting the word out to visitors who might otherwise pass it by. We're trying to help with a few articles from time to time. But I'd suggest locals might be in for a big surprise if they'd drop in and take a tour. Then tell your out-of-town friends about it.

True, the museum probably won't be a draw to Lake Geneva. There's more going on and the museum's publicity funds are limited. This mention is as much a p.r. plug on my part as anything. But, once anyone does go to the museum, they'll know why we live the area so much and it'll be another option for a rainy summer day.

Outdoor dining

Finally, the no-brainer — outdoor dining. Based on the early returns, this is a major hit with both restaurant owners and diners. It's the type of thing tourist cities normally have and I'm glad Lake Geneva has it too. Sure, there may be a glitch or two, but over time I suspect it'll have all of us scratching our heads as to why it wasn't done sooner.

So ... that's my spin on the summer. Now I just have to make time to enjoy it.


Tags: Staff Editorial

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