APPLETON (NBC 26) — Amid the Appleton City Center Plaza's nearly empty halls, a glimmer of hope appears for the once-thriving mall.
Over the years, the plaza has experienced a decline in both stores and foot traffic, but a proposed redevelopment planaims to breathe new life into the building and restore its status as a vibrant centerpiece of downtown.
“A lot more stores, a lot more foot traffic. Over the years we’ve seen it dwindle quite a bit,” said Perry Vanderloop, owner of Joseph’s Shoes.
For nearly four decades, Peri Vanderloop has run Joseph's Shoes, a family business within the plaza.
“It means a lot. I mean we have a lot of history here. I think it’s one of the best locations in Appleton,” said Vanderloop.
While other businesses have come and gone, Joseph's Shoes has remained.
“Being in retail this long I don’t know. It’s just things happen, people retire, I mean I was one of the youngest,” said Vanderloop.
One of the youngest when his family store arrived at the Plaza decades ago. Now, Vanderloop is ready to welcome a wave of new neighbors as part of the proposed redevelopment.
The plan looks to transform the City Center Plaza into the "Fox Commons," a fully occupied space, with various uses like retail, healthcare, and even housing.
Kara Homan, a representative from the Appleton Community and Economic Development Committee, believes that these plans will reshape downtown Appleton.
“This is really the core in the center of our city. So really, reimagining and reinvigorating it is going to be that cherry on top of the cake,” said Homan.
At first, there were uncertainties about whether Joseph's Shoes could remain in the plaza. However, Vanderloop and Dark Horse Development have reached an agreement that allows the business to stay exactly where it has been for decades.
“It's just been a lot of emotion and love from our customers so that’s one of the reasons why we’re staying,” said Vanderloop.
With four decades of customers and counting, Vanderloop expressed how grateful he is for the community.
The Community and Economic Development Committee will present an agreement to the Common Council on June 7. If approved, the redevelopment plan for Appleton City Center Plaza will usher in a new era for downtown Appleton.