Shorewood begins UniverCity partnership

In the fall of 2022, the Village of Shorewood was accepted into UW-Madison’s UniverCity Alliance. The alliance is also partnered with Cottage Grove, Eau Claire, Marinette, Milton, River Falls, St. Croix, Wausau and Wood County for the 2022-25 season. The UniverCity Year initiative connects local governments with Madison students and faculty to implement resources and development into surrounding counties. 

Each calendar year, applications open to Wisconsin communities to identify issues and projects of importance, where UniverCity can assist. When accepted into the program, UW-Madison staff combine specific projects with matched courses, research, or internships for students interested in working on the task. The staff and students then provide recommendations and resources to further a sustainable, successful future. 

“It is sufficient to say that we are an interdisciplinary network of people,” said Gavin Luter, Managing Director. “This is an opportunity for us to come together on one common idea: how do we make cities and local governments better places for everyone?” 

Projects brought forth to UniverCity can range from sustainability, infrastructure, and economics to arts, health and education. The Village of Shorewood submitted three project proposals: development of a historic preservation framework, review of communication strategy, and a feasibility study for electrification of police fleet vehicles.

Developing historic preservation framework is first on the agenda, with the possibility of ordinance or other future recommendations. Currently, there is leeway regarding regulations on buildings deemed historic, and controversy over making modifications to homes; this project aims to protect Shorewood’s unique housing stock without being too restrictive. 

We are making sure that the Village is meeting the needs of the community or finding any potential blind spots.

— Chris Anderson, Assistant Village Manager

Next is a study on the feasibility of electrifying the police fleet in Shorewood.

“[This study] will dig deeper into what would be involved as far as capital infrastructure we would need at the police facility, and looking at cost of the vehicles and ongoing maintenance we are currently not equipped with,” said Chris Anderson, Assistant Village Manager. “We are looking at all the angles [on these projects] to make sure we have essential information to make a decision to go forward.”

The main project is improving Shorewood’s communication strategy. 

“We are making sure that the Village is meeting the needs of the community or finding any potential blind spots,” Anderson said. “This communications review will be helpful for us to understand if we are doing everything we can to reach the community.”

Anderson has worked closely with Luter and the alliance to properly meet the needs of Shorewood in the coming years. The UniverCity partnership lasts from 20222025, with development split between the three years. 

2022, program year one, focused on fully fleshing out project details and establishing a consensus of the results. Fall 2023 is when Madison classes will focus on the initiative, which will continue through spring semester students in 2024. The recommendations found from this research will be published and summarized in the summer of 2024, with follow-up assistance and implementation from faculty and staff throughout the remaining years. 

…we benefit as an organization by getting these new perspectives on areas that we would like to grow and change.

— Ann McCullough McKaig, Village President

“We want to give a thoughtful analysis on the projects, and if they make economic and social sense,” Luter said. “We try to pride ourselves [by working] on projects that are dedicated to making communities a better place in line with sustainability, equity and democracy, and I think that these projects are all aimed at that.”

Ann McCullough McKaig, Village President, is excited to build this relationship and improve the community.

“These types of partnerships add capacity to our organization to do projects that our staff doesn’t have time to do at an extremely reasonable price, so it is a very good use of tax dollars,” McKaig said. “We investigated the program and aligned it with our initiatives and priorities; it was a really good catch.”

The Village Board believes the primary benefit of having help from outside organizations such as UniverCity is the opportunity to look at issues from a new point of view.

“I really think that we benefit as an organization by getting these new perspectives on areas that we would like to grow and change,” McKaig said.

“The younger generation thinks differently, and I think getting those different perspectives and working toward progressive action is really meaningful,” Anderson said.