Community leaders and major donors gathered at 1 West Main Street in Watertown on Saturday to break ground for the City’s new $4.5 million Town Square. Among the honored guests were Barton and Laura Bentzin who, through the Bentzin Family Foundation, donated $1 million to secure naming rights for the Town Square.
“I am certain that my grandfather [Mike] and grandmother Joy are looking down on today’s ceremony with immense pride and statisfaction in the future that this park holds for the Watertown community. …We are confident that this gift will continue this legacy and be the cornerstone of the main street downtown area’s future,” said Barton Bentzin. “In the spirit of the Bentzin’s family’s commitment to the Watertown community, to the city they loved fiercely we officially dedicate this land to the people of Watertown. …I give you the Bentzin Family Town Square,” he concluded.
After comments from former Mayor John David, Rob Marchant, Chair-Watertown Redevelopment Authority (RDA), said “Today is more than a groundbreaking. …We are here today as a result of a belief in what was once unimaginable is joined with a commitment of collaboration and a roll up your sleeves can-do attitude.” He continued, “I will always think of this Square as a monument to collaboration and what can get done when people really work together.” He thanked many people who worked tirelessly behind the scenes and major donors Barton and Laura Bentzin, the City of Watertown, The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation, Earl and Eugenia Quirk Foundation, and Fisher Barton, along with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Lastly, Marchant offered a special thanks to the former owners of the properties that stood on the Town Square land.
Presentations ended with remarks from Mayor Emily McFarland. “Thank you to the City for believing in us, for challenging us, and for doubting us. Your doubt and your support inspired us to produce this incredible space. This community asset and this regional attraction would not be possible without your confidence in it and your heart to support it. The Bentzin Family Town Square is part of our economic development strategy. Place making creating spaces where people want to be, draws people into our City.” She went on to say, “the more people we have in our city, the more people we have in our labor pool, the more children attend our schools, the more visitors who contribute to our local economy.”
To date, the Bentzin Family Town Square has been the catalyst for T. Wall Enterprises, LLC to invest $19 Million in building a 90-unit mixed-use complex adjacent to the Square. In addition, Alex Allon, Executive Director of the RDA reported an uptick in recent purchases including the historic Masonic Temple building for $600,000 and a historic building in the 3rd block of Main Street for $300,000 are a direct result of Watertown’s investment in building the Bentzin Family Town Square. In addition, two local organizations have already donated $300,000 towards Town Square programming and operations in support of bringing more economic activity to downtown businesses.
Also joining the festivities were Senator John Jagler (R-Watertown); Scott Hoffmann, CEO-Fisher Barton, representing a gift from the Wilke Family/Fisher Barton to secure naming rights for the Performance Plaza; and Henry Gates, representing Watertown’s next generation and winner of the Town Square Art/Writing Contest, who told the crowd he was, “excited to go play at the splash pad with his family and friends.”