Trends Summer 2019 | Page 2

Bringing a city’s vision to life By Wendy Kinderman Game changer. That may be the best way to describe the impact of the City of Altoona’s River Prairie project. This small northwest Wisconsin community (population 7,680) transformed what was a largely undeveloped highway interchange area in 2014 to a bustling center of commerce and recreation five years later. River Prairie is a new “front porch” for the City of Altoona, providing new streets, utilities, and public spaces that have attracted extensive commercial development. “It is a City-defining project,” said Josh Clements, Altoona’s city planner. “It’s also become a notable destination in a region that has many great outdoor spaces.” Designing a New Downtown Like many small communities, Altoona has a lot of civic pride but a less-than-bustling downtown. It has parks and public spaces, but most are defined by single uses. The train tracks that bisect the community gave the school district its nickname – the Railroaders – but also fragmented development. Things began to change when the USH 53 bypass opened in 2006. That busy highway divided four quadrants of undeveloped land from the bulk of the City. For years the City worked to attract business to the four sectors. The southeast and northeast quadrants, the first to be developed, attracted an outpatient surgical hospital, medical offices, and several other businesses. A 240,000-square-foot Woodman’s Food Market went into the southwest quadrant in 2015. The City had a different vision for the 40-acre northwest quadrant, however. “What we really wanted was a community within a community,” said Mayor Brendan Pratt. “We knew we wanted to have a community that was all-inclusive, to have people that lived there, worked there, had fun, and enjoyed themselves there.” 2│ TRENDS