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New BID head comes with experience

He will split time with other roles

July 11, 2012

Jim Plaisted has been hired as the new executive director of the Wauwatosa Village Business Improvement District, replacing Kathy Ehley, who was elected the city's mayor in April.

Plaisted, a Wauwatosa resident, will be a busy man. In addition to his new Wauwatosa responsibilities, he will continue in his positions managing business districts in Shorewood and Milwaukee's East Side.

He declined to comment on how he would allocate his time. However, the Wauwatosa director has been considered a part-time position in the past.

"He has overseen successful marketing, special events and business reinvestment to transform commercial corridors into active, appealing areas," according to an announcement issued by the BID Board on Tuesday.

BID Board President Chris Leffler said Plaisted's knowledge will be important in implementing special projects under the recently adopted Village Master Plan, such as remodeling the Harmonee Bridge, redesigning and improving pedestrian paths at rail crossings within the Village limits and dealing with streetscape, signage and bicycle amenities.

Plaisted played a role in creating that plan having served on the BID's master plan committee. In January, he was appointed to the BID board, a position he resigned to become the director.

"Implementation of the plan is a high priority of the board," he said. "It's very scoped out and it's realistic."

He's worked with the city of Milwaukee on a $5 million, multiyear streetscape project in the area of the Oriental Theater. In Shorewood, he's been working with the Community Development Authority on the LightHorse mixed-use retail and apartment development.

Plaisted has made a career out of combining knowledge of business districts with his expertise working with municipalities.

The BID was established in 1994 to increase traffic and activity within Wauwatosa's historic Village.

"It's a very unique mechanism that state law created in the 1980s," he said. "BID law is very open. It doesn't dictate what you can or can't do with their money."

Some districts use their money to contract out landscaping services, while others market the businesses. Wauwatosa looks to do a little of everything from capital projects to marketing and community activities.

Plaisted will work with property owners on filling vacancies, maintaining properties and bringing the right business mix to the area. There are challenges such as how geographically spread out the district is, finding parking and pedestrian safety and traffic flow along State Street.

But there are also significant strengths, such as the surrounding density and number of unique businesses that people find in the Village.

Ehley sees Plaisted as an ideal hire and the right person to nurture the Village through capital projects and champion it as a place to visit.

In her five years in the position, the look and operations of the district have changed immensely for the better, she said.

"When I took over, we were facing continued years of street construction," she said. "There wasn't a coordinated effort on how to handle that."

Meanwhile the BID members weren't a cohesive group focused on property values. They have since seen the value and progress that can come from a concerted group effort.

"It has grown in sophistication and professionalism," she said.

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