One of many road signs lining Superior’s streets, but what are residents being asked to vote “yes” on exactly? – Photo by Felicity Bosk

By Felicity Bosk

You have likely seen signs on the side of the street encouraging you to vote yes on the Better City Superior Exposition District, but what does this mean?

Better City Superior is a group of citizens organized in finding ways to improve the city of Superior. Currently there is a referendum to add a tax of .5 percent on restaurant food, lodging and rental cars. If the referendum is passed, the money will be used to create a sports complex as well as movie theater, conference center, and hotel. A waterpark had been discussed but was taken out after large public disapproval.  These buildings will take up a 10 acre portion of downtown Superior. The hope is that this initiative will bring in tourists, encourage people to live in Superior and to revitalize the economy.

Mayor Bruce Hagen established Better City Superior in 2013 from the national development firm Better City. They have spent the last two years collecting data from citizens in the form of surveys and holding public forums to converse about what the people of Superior want.

Currently those working on the initiative are encouraging people to vote yes on their referendum to create an exposition district that can collect tax that will pay for a large chunk of the bill for the downtown development.

If the city votes to move forward, they must then go to the Wisconsin State Legislature for their approval. In Wisconsin before the city begins a construction project costing more than $1 million, they must hold a binding referendum. This is intended to be held in April 2017. If the city again votes yes on this second referendum, those who have been creating the Better City Superior Initiative will hold more public forums to help prioritize and design the plan for the final long-term development.

Thus far, much of this project has been funded by private business in Superior. In 2014 the National Bank of Commerce committed to adding $60,000 to the fund as well many other businesses have also added money to the pot. The initiative is supported by a number of organizations including UW-Superior and WITC, Development Association of Superior-Douglas County, The Superior Area Association of Realtors, Northern Wisconsin Building & Construction Trades Council, and the Superior City Council.

A survey was held at the end of 2015 in which 1130 people responded. When asked “what is your general feeling about the future of Superior?” 36 percent said positive, 26 percent said negative, and 38 percent said neutral. When asked “How do you think other community members feel about the future of Superior?” 14 percent said positive, 36 percent said neutral and 50 percent said negative.

For the question “Looking to the future, we should:” the answer “be positive and strategic” received 95 percent of the vote while “be cautious and react to what happens” received only 5 percent.