20/30 Vision for Oshkosh


Part 1.

As we enter a new year, many of us are likely thinking about what’s going to be different, how we can make life better, with an imagined clean slate. We have, of course, also entered a new decade. While we don’t actually have a clean slate (the world is carrying a lot of baggage into 2020), our shift into the ’20s does offer an opportunity to envision how life can be improved as we turn the page.

I asked a number of people from different stations to give me a brief take on what they would like to see happen in Oshkosh by 2030. Recurring themes include a desire for Oshkosh to have more affordable housing and be more inclusive and connected, sustainable, densely-settled, wired, and innovative.

Since I got a strong response, I am posting part 1 today and will share part 2 next Friday. Each person and their response is presented below.

Alana Erickson

I’m looking forward to Oshkosh becoming more inclusive. When I moved here 4 years ago it was difficult to meet people; joining groups and community coalitions changed that. I’ve really enjoyed the way that I’ve been welcomed and integrated into the community work. Sadly, I’ve also learned that this is not the case for everyone. Both my professional and personal work to improve public health will require a tightly knit community that works together and celebrates our unique contributions. Therefore, I’m investing my energy into supporting my neighborhood association and building social connectedness across a diverse Oshkosh.

Alana Erickson is a Public Health Supervisor at the Winnebago County Health Department. Previous to living in Oshkosh, she spent 10 years working on improving health policy through various state networks.

Rick Leib

Being a lifelong resident of Oshkosh, I appreciate the social investment that has picked up some steam in recent years.  There have been many individuals and local organizations that have invested their time, treasure and talents into the Oshkosh community and it makes me feel that Oshkosh is making the necessary changes to be a sustainable and more connected community.  However, we have to keep moving forward.  I hope our community leaders and citizens deliberate and come to some common ground on future issues.  

One of these issues that I would love to see the Oshkosh community embrace is sustainability.  Building and promoting green infrastructure throughout our community has so many benefits.  It promotes healthy lifestyles and it is proven to strengthen the local economy.  I think a ‘city-wide plastic ban’ protects our natural resources which also has connections to personal health and our economy.  I envision an Oshkosh community that protects our city’s historic homes and buildings while repurposing them for our future.  Repurposing these buildings prevents the development of green space and encourages development with the structures that we already have.

I know that going green can be viewed as a barrier to development.  I think that going green sustains a healthy economy and citizenry for our future.

Rick Leib is a longtime social studies teacher at Oshkosh North High School and one of the founders of the Communities program there. 

Alex Hummel

By 2030, Oshkosh will be thriving if the last remnants of its last age—the age of central-city and riverfront industry—have been entirely reclaimed, recycled, revitalized and reliably wired for the era of artificial intelligence.

In 2030, the city will be 30 years into its redevelopment era—the start of which I set at October 2000. That is the publication date of the October 2000 Downtown Redevelopment Plan, one of the city’s most visionary and effective plans ever crafted and carried out here (thanks for the tremendous assist, Oshkosh Area Community Foundation).

We can, and should, push ourselves so that more fallow, low-value and underperforming Oshkosh parcels and buildings in the central city (a well-defined, more-inclusive-than-you-realize area north and south of the Fox River and, largely, east of Wisconsin Street) are both filled in with smart, functional new development and repurposed existing structures. Residents, business leaders, city administrators, nonprofit teams, volunteers and others in Oshkosh have done a pretty good job over the last 20 years of creating the conditions to retain high-and-medium headcount businesses and employers in the core (4imprint, Silver Star Brands, Dealersocket, city and county governments and UW Oshkosh,… the list goes on). In the next 10 years, it’s time for more and greater success as we further knit the people contributing to small, mid-size and large organizations into the everyday, active fabric of the city. We need more dwellers and doers to invest time and money in the rhythm of the central city, and the way things are going, there’s no reason to believe it cannot happen (think Oshkosh Food Coop, expanded and enhanced riverwalk offerings and other distinctive offerings and activities). Lest you think I’m central-city-centric, know that what’s good for the heart is good for the rest of the body. Radiating, outward-pulsing waves of revitalization and investment are good for all of the city and surrounding towns.

If you’ve read this far, I will admit this piece may sound a bit like a stodgy community planning brief. So, to try and be more succinct and energetic, I’ll put it all this way: by 2030 the river through Oshkosh should be smartly hugged by more public access points and livable, workable and shop-able structures. And at every point, and along every lane, there should be high-fidelity communication and transportation technology. We, as a community, must ensure the city doesn’t lose the future infrastructure contest. There will be surefire advancements in autonomous vehicle systems (think Netflix for cars) and “gig economy” jobs. Cities with win. Cities without wane.

Speaking of winning or losing, a last thought: We are awakening to the moral and economic necessity of becoming a more diverse and inclusive community. As we challenge ourselves to consistently do better, we also need to be multidimensional in our support for everyone who decides to call Oshkosh home. This means always examining our city’s accessibility and affordability but not at the expense of investment and ingenuity. This means capitalizing on the radical technological change to come. And it cannot be exclusive. Without a low-to-no-cost, next-generation, digital circulatory system in Oshkosh, the people we sustain, invite and help succeed will have a harder time connecting, launching new businesses and enterprises, heightening art and culture and, ultimately, keeping apace with rapid change.

If we invest in and hold ourselves accountable for continued, bold redevelopment and stronger diversity, inclusivity and technology, more will thrive by the time 2030 rolls around.

Alex Hummel is a former local journalist and currently Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Strategic Partnerships at UW Oshkosh.

Tina Haffeman

Oshkosh seems to understand that there are a significant number of homeless persons here (including 150-200 students in OASD) so that initiatives to address persons who are homeless get support. However, there are even more people who are precariously housed. This would include those who are paying 30% or more of their monthly income toward housing (making the meeting of basic needs nearly impossible), and those who are “doubling up” by staying with friends or relatives. Such housing situations are not stable for the long term so these “hidden homeless” individuals and families are at great risk for becoming homeless. Lack of stable housing is a social determinant to physical and mental health.
To begin to address the complex issue of lack of affordable housing, the community needs data upon which a strategic plan can be built. And the kind of data needed is not easy to get. But it is doable as evidenced by a successful project in the Fox Cities several years ago. That project was a comprehensive community study enthusiastically supported by the city, the United Way, their Foundation, nonprofits, service organizations, churches, and more.  The study included 125 volunteers trained to conduct 600 interviews of those with the lived experience of  housing instability. A director was hired to lead the year long endeavor and a consulting firm was engaged. Since that study the communities to the north of us are able to strategically develop and prioritize housing initiatives while also educating the community on the true state of lack of affordable housing there. A foundation to build a successful housing continuum has been laid and the director has been hired to be a point person on housing projects.
A study like this is not just a wish list item but rather viable goal to address a pervasive community issue in Oshkosh. Let’s stop wringing our hands about this (or worse ) ignoring the problem and determine how we can best approach affordable housing for a significant population in Oshkosh.

Tina Haffeman is an Oshkosh native (spending most of her life on Washington Ave.) and Founder of Day by Day Warming Shelter

Eskedar Robinson

I would like to see a community that not only prides itself on being inclusive, but shows how inclusive it is. We have had many incidents even just in the campus area that show otherwise. I want to see more programs and events that celebrate individuality by looking at minority culture.

Eskedar Robinson, originally from Ethiopia, is a fourth-year student at UWO, majoring in Communication and minoring in African American Studies.

Ken Osmond

1. Expand available housing for the homeless from October thru April. The Warming Shelter and Father Carr’s is not enough. 2. Address the event fee debacle at City Hall. 3. Establish an industrial composting facility in the city or county that can also do “hot” composting. 4. Fix Wisconsin Avenue. 5. Purchase the properties in front of the Oshkosh corp building and level the Casey’s that is already there. 6. Support the arena! 7. Get a new hotel on the Pioneer Inn property ASAP! 8. Establish more grants for small businesses. 9. Tax large box stores appropriately – they are not taxed enough. 10. Make lunches free for school kids. 11. Public boat house and landing near Oshkosh Corp building.

Ken Osmond is the owner of Planet Perk.

Adam BellCorelli

What I would like to see Oshkosh accomplish in the next decade is connectedness. By 2030, every family in Oshkosh can be connected to our community. These connections are face-to-face, place-to-place and digital. It would be so great to have every home in town able to reach out to a neighborhood association to share their talents and knowledge, and know each others’ names. When a family moves in, they are greeted by neighbors eager to meet them and make new connections. The GO Transit system can expand hours and involvement, efficiently carrying everyone to school, work, Main St, Menominee Nation Arena, the Riverwalk, the grocery store, coffee shops, breweries, the library; all of the wonderful places where we connect to one another. And over the next decade, all of downtown and each public space could be connected to public wifi, allowing greater connectivity to events and resources that make Oshkosh such an engaging and enjoyable place to live, work, grow. Riding around town, people could connect to public wi-fi and download the latest Bicycle Routes and learn about places they can stop for a snack along the way. This is going to a fantastic decade to connect in Oshkosh!

Adam BellCorelli is the smiling face of encouragement at 14&3, a leadership development nonprofit, and a founding member of Heroes of Oshkosh.

Taylor Kwasny

Recently I heard of a Facebook page called Heroes of Oshkosh where people can offer goods to others (or ask for goods) free of charge. They also do shoutouts to those who have helped them. I believe that this makes the community closer and I hope this will continue for years to come. One thing I would like to see happen in the next decade are mandatory basic skills classes. I have heard people talking about wanting a class like this and I would also appreciate this class. The class could include the basics of sewing, how to do taxes, how to budget and other life skills. This way high schoolers like me, won’t feel as worried about the future because they will know the basics. Lastly, I would like to see all the potholes get fixed because they could be dangerous. Overall, I can’t wait to see the new things that will come in the next decade in Oshkosh.

Taylor Kwasny is a junior at Oshkosh North High School.

Lizz Redman

After relocating back here in 2017, I have enjoyed the riverwalk, rail trails, our awesome Farmers Market, and numerous new local businesses.  How can we continue to attract and retain more entrepreneurs, particularly in the food sector?  I envision a permanent home for the Oshkosh Farmers Market- one with plentiful parking spots, easy access and set-up for vendors, with an indoor space for the winter market. Additionally, I see a shared commercial kitchen that is an affordable space for new food start-ups to begin.  I also see continued efforts to educate our public on the importance of supporting our local businesses, producers, and organizations. Keeping our money right here in the community is a powerful way to shape economy, our health, and social welfare.  Finally, I hope this vision is inclusive of all people in our community- whether you’ve been here for generations or are new to our country.  Oshkosh, like all places, need to evolve and grow to succeed.  How will you participate in this exciting new chapter?

Lizz Redman holds a Masters in Health and Human development with an Emphasis in Sustainable Food Systems from Montana State University. She is co-owner of the new Thunderbird Bakery, is a board member for the Oshkosh Food Co-op, and works at the Howard.

Aaron Wojciechowski

Continuing to encourage and promote diversity: As we move into the next decade I would like to see Oshkosh build upon and encourage diversity in all areas. Diversity in government representation, diversity in businesses and business owners, diversity in services and resources, diversity in events, and so on. Oshkosh is a great place but has the potential to be even better. Oshkosh is a place that I am happy to be apart of and I hope it continues working together to create a stronger community.

Aaron Wojciechowski is an aftercare teacher and a candidate for the 18th State Senate district.


About Author

Paul Van Auken

Paul Van Auken has been a member of the sociology and environmental studies faculty at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh since 2007, after completing a Ph.D. in sociology from UW-Madison. A native of Iowa but resident of Wisconsin since 1999, Paul conducts research on issues related to neighborhood, community, land use planning and access to public space, sustainability, and teaching and learning. He also practices public sociology, regularly writing a column called “Shortening the Distance” for Oshkosh Independent. He lives with his wife and two daughters on the historic, walkable, and interesting east side of Oshkosh, near the shores of Lake Winnebago.

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