Wausau River District wins national award for downtown development, preservation

Daly's and Polito's Pizza are two of the restaurants participating in the Downtown Wausau Dining Week   (Photo: Laura Schulte/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

Daly's and Polito's Pizza are two of the restaurants participating in the Downtown Wausau Dining Week (Photo: Laura Schulte/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

By: Megan Stringer, Wausau Daily Herald

WAUSAU - One of the country's three best downtown development programs is in Wausau, according to judges in a Main Street America contest.

The Wausau River District on Monday night won a national award recognizing economic development and historic preservation alongside local growth. 

By winning, the Wausau River District became a Great American Main Street. The River District was recognized as a destination for arts and culture events, creating engaging public spaces and driving a healthy local economy.

The nonprofit organization formed in Wausau in 2002, advocating for business and residential development. The River District works on marketing, events, business retention and other activities in a downtown area that spans 34 blocks with over 220 businesses near the Wisconsin River. The district is known for events such as Downtown Wausau Dining Week and Jazz on the River in the summer.

The award was announced Monday at the Main Street Now conference in Seattle. Wausau River District Executive Director Blake Opal-Wahoske attended the conference. A news release issued before the announcement, under embargo, did not identify the other two winners.

The Great American Main Street Award is given out each year by Main Street America, a network of more than 1,600 urban and rural communities. Main Street America is a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center Inc., a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Wausau River District is a member of Main Street America.